Friday, August 31, 2007

Michael Benton: On Feminism

(Repost for students doing conceptual papers on feminism--I need to update this as it is two years old... --MB)

A response to a comment to an earlier post:

Feminism doesn't demand equality in the sense of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" (a classic story of PC mania)... rather it is a simple demand for equal opportunity, value and respect.

I'm sorry but I really do not understand your argument here--there are varying abilities in all people and the fact that some men may be physically stronger than some women is no more important than the equally true fact that some women are stronger than some men. I respect science, more and more as the Bush government seeks to discredit it, but when thinking about gender I think we should avoid a deterministic stance.

Feminism is an important word and theory. It is just as valid today as it was in the past, as we are continuingly assaulted by the decisions of backward-looking theocrats like Dr. Hager; the discrimination of American corporations like Wal-Mart who think of women as servants not leaders; the continuing culture of physical intimidation at a local level and on a global scale; emphasis on body as sole factor in a women's value because she only needs to worry about one thing; or where women's history is generally ignored unless it supports a patriarchal view.

I'm a man, often rightly determined to be chauvinistic in my attitudes... I was raised in the 70s... but damn, how blind must a person be to not recognize a continuing system that grossly favors men overall and that systematically attempts to cover up this reality.

There are abusive feminists, they are human, but you cannot discount an entire movement for the actions of a few members. And I am under no illusion that the world will simply become better if women were placed in power as they are just as capable of cruelty and oppression. This is simply a recognition of systematic discrimination in our society and the call to fight it.

I do not claim gender as a privileged position and recognize that it needs to be put into play with a multitude of other perspectives to understand the relationships of power (most definitely perspectives of class, race, sexuality and place--especially when they are used in a deterministic factor to perpetuate discrimination against groups of people).

Jack Hoot Stull: Patriotism and Group Identity

Patriotism and Group Identity
by Jack Hoot Stull

I believe that all people have been separated from their most essential self, and that we are all searching, either consciously or unconsciously, for a way back. This “cast out of Eden” and journey back to the self is an ancient story; it is depicted in the myths of cultures all over the world. It is a story that is embedded deeply within us.

From a psychological perspective, the initial separation from the essential self represents the formation of the ego in its most limited form, or the birth of the infant ego. The self must form the ego in order to become conscious of itself. The process of becoming conscious of the self, through formation of the ego, is the process of individuation. Individuation is the progression towards freedom, out of unconsciousness, towards the self in its true unbounded form.

The self goes through many stages that are defined by limitation, and as it progresses, ego expansion pushes out these walls of limitation. What seems to comprise these walls of limitation, at least to a large degree, are false identifications. Since the self in its purest, truest essence is not limited, any identification that a person has is in a sense false, for if a person identifies with one thing, then the person does not identify with what that thing is not, i.e., that person rejects on some level some aspect of reality as being an aspect of the self.

In our culture, and throughout the world, there are all sorts of groups and subgroups that people identify with. A person identifies with a particular group because that person feels that he or she has something in common with that group. These perceived commonalities largely determine the characteristics of the group and the behavior of the individual members. When the perceived commonalities are superficial, then the individual will often act superficially—the language within the group will reflect commonalities that the members embrace together.

High school is a place where groups often form around superficial commonalities. The “wannabe” gangster/rapper group is one example of this out of many. (Keep in mind here that I am referring to this group generically, and that I realize that every gang has its own codes and variances.) What mostly unifies this group, if one could call it unity, is a certain way of dressing, a certain appearance—baggy pants, hanging chains, baseball caps turned backwards, verbal slang, a tough attitude. These are all things that the members wear on the surface—they are the group’s uniform.

For the most part the members of such a “gang” hardly know themselves and operate mostly out of unconsciousness. These individuals are not conscious of the psychological monsters that linger in the shadows behind their awareness. If an individual’s psyche is too disturbed, if too many monsters are raging underneath the surface, fear of these unconscious disturbances will be so great that the person will harden in resistance, and instead of using the group for liberation into the next stage of development, the group is instead used as a defense mechanism against the unconscious. Often the members whose psyches are too disturbed will be the ones who push the shallow group features to an extreme, and more and more as the unconscious forces build up like a spring that is momentarily plugged. The longer the unconscious disturbances are not faced, the harder this surface exterior must be in order to contain them. Eventually this crusty exterior must break, and the repressed unconscious content emerges violently, manifesting outwardly as an act of violence, such as murder, and on the national level in the form of war.

As a gang member gets to know his or her self, if some introspection truly does occur, then that person can move on from identifying with the gang, for it will become obvious that what holds the gang together is not at all representative of what the individual finds to be essential inside. The contrast provided by the differences between the individual members, however limited these differences may be, gives the members the leverage they need to begin to recognize the features of their true individuality.

If a member does become ready to move on from participation with the gang, it is not always easy to leave. Groups that are maintained and propped up by unconsciousness will often meet defectors with hostility, and even violence, because anything that threatens to cast some light into the shadowy foundation of the group threatens the group’s very existence—in order for the group to continue on, it cannot know that it is propped up by shadows and illusion.

Group identification is often responsible for the spread of violence and suffering—such as with gangs, or on a national or international level in the form of patriotism. This is because group identification, especially when it is supported by unconsciousness, naturally involves what I call the mentality of other. A group is defined not only by what it is, but also by what it is not. The idea of “an American” would be nonexistent if there weren’t many other nationalities for contrast. I am of the opinion that violence and war can only happen when there is this mentality of other.

Patriotism, like gang identity, is another example of group identification that is largely organized around unconsciousness. Ask a patriotic American what an American actually is, or what it means to be an American. Some will barely be able to respond to this type of question that directly confronts them, since all of the feelings and ideas that their patriotism is based on are submerged below their awareness. Others will have a few things to say about it, giving off the illusion of being in control of their opinions, the illusion that their opinions represent their own thoughts and feelings. However, they are merely acting as the mouth pieces for an unconscious stew of sentiments that were unwittingly accumulated from their culture. These thoughts and feelings are rarely examined on a deep level.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Michael Benton: Response to I Am a Sex Addict



The style of this film includes interweaving personal narratives, historical and cultural asides, metanarrative reflections, recursive recounting of events, pseudo-documentary expositions and re-enactments. The narrator is engaging and personable, revealing his weaknesses and faults, yet engaging us with his honesty and courage, while still exposing his ignorance. It leads to me wonder how I often mask my own desires and needs, if only we all were so honest (but then he is never truly honest with himself, no matter how desperately he tries)? This is a philosophical film about addiction.

There are moments in the narrative progression when I feel, along with Caveh, shocked by this honesty, this raw emotional and physical need, but at the same time I am exhilarated by the possibilities of expressing one's dark side and having it accepted. We see the downside of the repression of our inner needs when he sacrifices his first true love for Anna because Caroline will throw herself out the window—his discursion on the “saint” complex hit way to close to home and made me angry? regret? confused? at some of the things I did under the same misguided notion of rightness. Later we are presented with the full enactment of his so-called true desire, he is with an Asian prostitute and he finally acts out his aggressive sexuality and feeling somewhat guilty is amazed that she pats him on the ass and says come again… having someone, anyone seeing you for what you are, beneath all of those layers, and having them accept it, or at least not be horrified… is exhilirating and liberating for him; of course, any thinking person must question this exchange, it is so loaded with inequality, perhaps intentionally so? In this we realize that this is his exchange with a prostitute and the ugly nature of the exchange, but still it speaks to the anxieties we all suffer in letting our supressed nature/needs becoming “completely” exposed and the dsyfuntional/abusive outlets that result from repression. Did sex become linked to power or did power link itself to sex (and in a capitalist world we are talking about money, for some drugs, material goods, and other means)?

Then there is the neediness of human relationships, the struggle to be with someone without trying to control them, to love them and let them be who they are… which would include letting them fulfill their needs in the ways that they want. We see this in Caveh’s second relationship with Christa where he struggles to come to terms with his outside sexual desires, and, when he does, his befuddlement, jealousy and anger when his lover then becomes enamored with a mutual friend. Of course in the context of this narrative this seems ridiculous to us that he would be jealous/angry, but then who amongst us has not had what we want and when we want it, then decide that a person we are with shouldn’t do the same? Once again, the struggle to come to terms with desire and needs in the context of freedom and openness—are there boundaries, who defines them and redefines them, why and when?

In his first conversations with Devin, who we think he has fallen in love with and who has a much more honest/direct understanding of impulses/desires than Caveh does. She calls him on his assumptions and how he continues to play out what he detests in conventional society—why would he anguish over Christa that night… why not wish she is having the time of her life, which makes all the more sense because Caveh is laying next to Devin as she tells him this… is his jealous keeping him from finding happiness?

Then there is the struggle in our minds/souls for pleasurable pursuits on the purest level of sensation (and this is about addiction, not just sex) and the opposite need for longstanding developments of understanding and meaning. Where will either be found—will they war with each other throughout our lives—will one conquer and suppress the other—or is it possible to achieve a rapprochement between and through these dueling impulses? In the repression of our true needs (out of fear, anxiety, shame) do we continuously end up with the wrong people (and this applies to those of us with long series of broken relationships as well as those that quietly suffer through one or two)? It is in the struggle between Caveh and Devin to define some boundaries that this weird and twisted attempt to reach through the sado-masochistic reality of dueling impulses of love/hate, desire/revulsion, acceptance/rejection (is Devin’s alcoholism really any worse than Caveh’s obsession with sex?) is played out in a twisted macabre sense, they obviously care about each other, but…. It is in his regret when he states that he once read somewhere that everyone that comes into our lives is a mirror for something inside us that we are not seeing and he wonders how Devin acted as that mirror. How are the people that we desire, that we lust after, that we need, a reflection of our fears/anxieties/submerged-desires? What are the patterns that we re-enact because we don’t confront submerged feelings/repressions? Is there the possibility of coming to terms with our shadow?

This is, I think, the central question of the film, and so brilliantly explored, even with the happy conclusion of Caveh finding his bliss… but I am skeptical...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Democracy Now: "The APA Has Long Been a Clan" - Psychologist, Author Mary Pipher Returns APA Award Over Interrogation Policy

"The APA Has Long Been a Clan" - Psychologist, Author Mary Pipher Returns APA Award Over Interrogation Policy
Democracy Now

"I think that the APA has long been a clan," said Mary Pipher, a clinical psychologist and author of "Reviving Ophelia" among several other books. She returned her Presidential Citation award from the America Psychological Association in protest over the group's policy on military and CIA interrogations. "The top leadership, the people on the council have been there for decades. It's a very ingrown group of people and I think we probably need some new leadership in APA." [includes rush transcript]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We play the second part of our conversation with renowned psychologist and author Mary Pipher. She gained headlines last week when she returned her Presidential Citation award from the America Psychological Association in protest over the group's policy on military and CIA interrogations.
At its annual convention just over a week ago, the APA's policymaking council voted overwhelmingly to reject a measure that would have banned its members from participating in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay and other US detention centers.

Mary Pipher rose to national acclaim with the publication of her book, "Reviving Ophelia" which remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over 150 weeks. She has written several other books, her latest is titled "Writing to Change the World." I began by asking Mary Pipher why she decided to return her award from the APA.

Mary Pipher, clinical psychologist and author of numerous books, including "Reviving Ophelia," which remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 154 weeks. Her latest book is "Writing to Change the World." She joins us from Lincoln, Nebraska, where she lives.

Listen/Watch/Read

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold: The Gifted Children Left Behind

(Courtesy of Teresa Webb)

The Gifted Children Left Behind
By Susan Goodkin and David G. Gold
Washington Post

With reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act high on the agenda as Congress returns from its recess, lawmakers must confront the fact that the law is causing many concerned parents to abandon public schools that are not failing.

These parents are fleeing public schools not only because, as documented by a recent University of Chicago study, the act pushes teachers to ignore high-ability students through its exclusive focus on bringing students to minimum proficiency. Worse than this benign neglect, No Child forces a fundamental educational approach so inappropriate for high-ability students that it destroys their interest in learning, as school becomes an endless chain of basic lessons aimed at low-performing students.

These predictable problems were reported as early as 2003, when the Wall Street Journal warned that schools were shifting their focus overwhelmingly toward low achievers. Expressions of concern from distressed parents and educators of gifted children have come in increasing numbers ever since.

No Child is particularly destructive to bright young math students. Faced with a mandate to bring every last student to proficiency, schools emphasize incessant drilling of rudimentary facts and teach that there is one "right" way to solve even higher-order problems. Yet one of the clearest markers of a nimble math mind is the ability to see novel approaches and shortcuts to attacking such problems. This creativity is what makes math interesting and fun for those students. Schools should encourage this higher-order thinking, but high-ability students are instead admonished for solving problems the wrong way, despite getting the right answers. Frustrated, and bored by simplistic drills, many come to hate math.

Talented writers fare no better in language arts education. Recently, a noted children's author recounted her dismay when fifth-graders attending one of her workshops balked at a creative writing exercise. She was shocked to learn that the reluctant writers were gifted. The children, however, had spent years completing mundane worksheets designed for struggling classmates and thus rebelled at an exercise they assumed would be yet another tedious worksheet.

One suggested revision to address these concerns is "growth modeling," which tracks the progress of all students, including those already scoring above proficiency. But as long as No Child requires that every student reach proficiency by 2014 and it continues to focus only on grade-level material, teachers will lack incentives to appropriately educate students who can master their grade's curriculum well before spring testing. Nor will growth modeling prompt schools to provide an enriching curriculum that goes beyond the basics.

The response of many parents to this situation was summed up succinctly by one of our numerous friends, colleagues and family members who have pulled their children from neighborhood schools: "We've learned that the real solution is called 'private school.' "

Perhaps if more policymakers sent their children to public schools they would address these unintended but disastrous consequences of No Child. Rather than trying to rectify this situation, however, many politicians advocate a voucher program that would only encourage more parents to desert public education.

Some politicians justify vouchers with the Orwellian claim that taking money from public schools to pay private tuition will improve the public schools by forcing them to compete for students. This claim is absurd given the uneven playing field between public and private schools.

Most obviously, private schools can reject any student who would require extra time from teachers. Thus it is left to public schools to handle children with behavior problems or severe learning impairments, and non-English speakers. Until private schools receiving vouchers are required to accept all applicants, vouchers simply allow them to cherry-pick public school students, giving them an insurmountable competitive edge.

Ironically, the private schools to which President Bush and his allies are so anxious to hand public funds are also exempt from the standardized testing these politicians declare to be the critical measure of educational success. Private schools need not impose upon their students the drudgery of preparing for and taking weeks of standardized tests and can offer an enriching curriculum beyond the basics without worrying about No Child sanctions. Given these one-sided constraints, no one could honestly claim that vouchers do anything but drain resources from the public schools this act was supposed to improve.

In adopting the No Child law, Congress finally addressed the shameful neglect of students in failing schools, particularly inner-city schools. Now it must address the fact that the requirements it imposed are driving away many of the concerned and involved parents critical to our ailing public school system.

Susan Goodkin is executive director of the California Learning Strategies Center, an education think tank. David G. Gold is a lecturer and consultant on strategic issues in negotiation.

Link to the Original Editorial (which includes hyperlinks)

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Stagflation

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

stagflation \stag-FLAY-shun\ noun
: persistent inflation combined with stagnant consumer demand and relatively high unemployment

Example sentence:
In the '70s, when the economy slid into stagflation, many college graduates had difficulty landing the high-paying jobs they had expected.

"Stagflation" is a portmanteau, that is, a word that blends two others (in this case, "stagnation" and "inflation"). The first documented use of the word appeared in 1965 in the writing of British politician Iain Macleod, who wrote, "We now have the worst of both worlds — not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of 'stagflation' situation." Macleod is often credited with coining the term, and his linguistic invention was quickly embraced by economists in the United States, who used it to refer to the period of economic sluggishness and high inflation that affected the country in the 1970s.

BIG BIG BIG IRAQ PROTEST TONIGHT IN LEXINGTON, LOUISVILLE

(Courtesy of Media Czech)

The biggest Iraq protest in years is being held at 5:00 in both Lexington and Louisville. Lexington's is in Phoenix Park next to the Central Library and Louisville's is at Bellermine's Frazier Hall.

I'll be at the Louisville rally, and there are rumors that over 1,000 people will be there, which would make it one of the biggest KY anti-war protests since the Vietnam War. There's going to be lots of national media at the event, which will culminate in everyone marching to Mitch McConnell's L'Ville apartment for a vigil.

This is a key time for this movement, as the Congress will be voting on the future of Iraq in September, which will determine our policy for the next year.

If you oppose this war, show up and be heard. Show up and be counted.

More Info

GOOD FOODS MARKET & CAFÉ HOLDS CEREMONY FOR RECEIVING ENERGY STAR® AWARD (August 28th)

(The gang here at Dialogic appreciates the efforts of the co-operative Good Foods)

GOOD FOODS MARKET & CAFÉ HOLDS CEREMONY FOR RECEIVING ENERGY STAR® AWARD

Good Foods Market & Café will hold a press conference at 455 Southland Drive at 10 am on Tuesday, August 28, to present and mount the ENERGY STAR® plaque which was recently awarded in 2007.

Anne Hopkins, General Manager, will speak about the prestigious award and what it means as we are the first building in Lexington and 1 of 14 buildings in the state of Kentucky to receive this honor. Also expected to be present are Vice Mayor Jim Gray and City Councilman Don Blevins.

Good Foods Co-op is a locally-owned cooperative business with two locations in Lexington--Good Foods Market & Café on Southland Drive and Good Foods Chapter 2, a cafe located inside the Downtown Lexington Public Library. We have served the Lexington community since 1972.

Good Foods Market & Cafe Earns the ENERGY STAR for Turning Energy Use into Savings

Lexington, KY--Good Foods Market & Café has earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) prestigious ENERGY STAR, the national symbol for protecting the environment through superior energy performance. Good Foods is the only business in Lexington and one of only 14 buildings in Kentucky that have earned the ENERGY STAR.

"Good Foods is pleased to accept EPA's ENERGY STAR in recognition of our energy efficiency efforts," said Anne Hopkins, General Manager."Through this achievement, we have demonstrated our commitment to environmental stewardship while also lowering our energy costs."

Organizations earn the ENERGY STAR by using EPA's national energy performance rating system to generate energy-efficiency ratings for their buildings, on a scale of 1 to 100 relative to similar buildings across the country. Good Foods earned a 98 out of 100 rating. The rating system is available for office buildings, schools, dormitories, hotels, hospitals, and grocery stores, among other commercial buildings.

To earn the ENERGY STAR, Good Foods took the following actions:

*Reengineered for a more efficient lighting system

* Expanded maintenance program for more efficient operations

* Reflective film treatment added to windows

* Eliminated low efficiency equipment and energy systems

* Improved department practices for energy and water usage

More than 3,200 buildings have earned the ENERGY STAR since in 1999. These 3,200 ENERGY STAR buildings in all 50 states represent over 575 million square feet. In the U.S., energy loss from commercial buildings represents almost 18 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions.

ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program that helps businesses and consumers protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. In 2006 alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved $14 billion and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from 25 million vehicles.

Good Foods Co-op is a locally-owned cooperative business with two locations in Lexington - Good Foods Market & Café on Southland Drive and Good Foods Chapter 2, a cafe located inside the Downtown Lexington Public Library. We have served the Lexington community since 1972. Everyone is welcome to shop either location.

For more information about ENERGY STAR

For more information about Good Foods

Monday, August 27, 2007

Oi, Someone Has Been Spending Way Too Much Time Learning How to Apply Make Up...

(Courtesy of Nicholas Mitchum)

Webster's Dictionary Word of the Day: objet trouvé

objet trouvé \AWB-zhay-troo-VAY\ noun
: a natural or discarded object found by chance and held to have aesthetic value

Example sentence:
The museum's latest show, which features objets trouvés, is a dramatic change from last year's exhibition of medieval religious art.

"Objet trouvé" comes from French, where it literally means "found object." The term entered English during the early 20th century, a time when many artists challenged traditional ideas about the nature of true art. Surrealists and other artists, for instance, held that any object could be a work of art if a person recognized its aesthetic merit. "Objet trouvé" can refer to naturally formed objects whose beauty is the result of natural forces as well as to man-made artifacts (such as bathtubs, wrecked cars, or scrap metal) that were not originally created as art but are displayed as such.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

George W. Bush: We are Making Progress...

(Courtesy of Bluegrass Roots)

Wim Wenders: Dreaming Between Frames

(An essential interview guided by intelligent questions and meditative answers... bravo!!! made me want to watch all of Wenders' films again in light of his words here... A nod to Wood's Lot for the suggestion.)



Wim Wenders: Dreaming Between Frames
Question for Mr. Wenders composed by Tully Rector and Simon Huxtable in consultation with Qalandar Memon.
Naked Punch



WW: I’ll do my best to answer them. Let’s see…

NP: You've written that "the act of filming is a heroic act", because "the camera is a weapon against the tragedy of things, against their disappearing." The world your camera records, however, is one that you have created---dramatic configurations, characters, orchestrated scenes, etc. How is your creative work something other than a "rescuing" of what disappears? How does the creative act, for you, do something other than merely (in Belazs words) "show things as they are"?


WW: I have to disagree, at least partially. I do NOT create the entire world in front of my camera, on the contrary, I try to let as much unaltered reality as possible enter into my picture. Of course I come with my fiction and my characters to the places that I set the story in, just like any other director. But then I do my best to do justice to that place, its light, its mood, its specificity. I believe that fictional stories sometimes transport real places and objects and things better than documentaries. Whenever I see a chance to let something appear as it is, without the film reality messing with it, I go for it.


NP: Regarding Peter Handke's novel Slow Homecoming, you said that "there are experiences described in it for the first time, strands of consciousness it was thought impossible to describe in words." Do you believe that film can achieve depictions of interiority inaccessible through verbal forms? Is film a privileged mode of truth-telling for you?


WW: I wouldn’t see these things (words on one hand, images on the other) as if they could be separated. Of course film has opened up a whole world that was inaccessible to literature, theatre, music, poetry, painting etc. And of course the contemporary novel has entered into very refined areas of the human experience. I would rather cite in this context a newer work by Peter Handke as an example – but I’m not sure it has been translated into English yet – and that would be “Der Bildverlust” (“The loss of images”). The tricky word in your question is “interiority”, of course. What is that? If it describes the realm of our innermost thoughts, feelings, fears, confusion, angst or joy, then “the word” seems privileged to describe it. All these expressions of our existence are communicated first through words, anyway. That’s how they reach our consciousness and that’s how we pass these things on to others. But the beauty of cinema as the most complex use of imagery today is that it can incorporate the achievements of all the arts, and that it can use words at their most acute, and music at its most refined, and in that amalgam go further than words or music can get on their own. “Truth-Telling”, of course, is as relative in movies as it is in literature, and as impossible as in politics. Sometimes I think you can only determine “true intentions”, and no longer “true statements”, in whatever medium.

NP: Many of your films explore fantastical geographies of feeling and being (the angels in Wings of Desire; the use of landscape in Paris, Texas; technological mutations of the human in Until the End of the World) In a 1958 lecture, Bunuel (quoting Breton) said that "the most admirable thing about the fantastic is that the fantastic doesn't exist; everything is real." Does this belief inform your use of the fantastic, the para-real? Do you intend your films to challenge or interrogate viewer's assumptions about what counts as real, as possible, as mutable?


WW: Great question, I must say! (Considering that I rarely get to answer questions I haven’t heard in one form or another before…) Let me think loudly for a while, before I get to the core of it. When Bunuel used the word “real” in that context in the Fifties, he already pretty much indicated its irrelevance already. If everything that your imagination comes up with is real, then “nothing is real”, as the Beatles sang 10 years later in “Strawberry Fields”. And that was before anybody had heard of the word “digital”, and before we were able to take just about any image and any sound and split them into their very atoms. We can do with “reality” today, so to speak, what physicist can do to “matter”. We live in the nuclear age, and that is no longer restrained to energy, but to information as well. Not only TIME is relative today, SPACE is, too, and any image of it or any sound in it. The word “reel” should be scratched from any dictionary. It has become, indeed, a four-letter-word. Only George Bush will continue to use it, in the same perverse way that he continues to use the word “freedom” in every second line. Given that, what do I expect people to believe or to see when they see a film of mine? First of all, I take it for granted that they will also see, let’s say, “Resident Evil”, “Matrix“ or any other contemporary thriller. So their assumptions about what is “real” are already challenged all the time, anyway. In fact, they only have to turn on their TV in order to get their brains washed. “Reality TV” fucks with your perception of the world just as much as the “news” on Fox. So where does that leave a gentle filmmaker like myself, if not with the only recommendation to my audience left which is: “Brace up. Protect yourself. Take nothing more seriously than your own feelings and your own judgment. Don’t let yourself be invaded by junk all the time. Your brain and its capacity to differentiate are your most precious possessions and your best protection. Use them every now and then for firsthand experiences!” And any movie of mine I’m showing them wants to convey one thing only: “Whatever you do in your life is worthless if you don’t do it with love and conviction. And remember: Things can be changed! You’re in charge of your life and nobody else!” If you want those are the only “messages” my films have ever carried. And those messages concern the only “reality” I’m interested in: My viewer’s perception.

To Read the Rest of the Interview

Michael Ware and Thomas Evans: U.S. officials rethink hopes for Iraq democracy

(Courtesy of Cogito, Ergo Sum ... Atheos)

U.S. officials rethink hopes for Iraq democracy
From Michael Ware and Thomas Evans
CNN

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Nightmarish political realities in Baghdad are prompting American officials to curb their vision for democracy in Iraq. Instead, the officials now say they are willing to settle for a government that functions and can bring security.

A workable democratic and sovereign government in Iraq was one of the Bush administration's stated goals of the war.

But for the first time, exasperated front-line U.S. generals talk openly of non-democratic governmental alternatives, and while the two top U.S. officials in Iraq still talk about preserving the country's nascent democratic institutions, they say their ambitions aren't as "lofty" as they once had been.

"Democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future," said Brig. Gen. John "Mick" Bednarek, part of Task Force Lightning in Diyala province, one of the war's major battlegrounds.

The comments reflect a practicality common among Western diplomats and officials trying to win hearts and minds in the Middle East and other non-Western countries where democracy isn't a tradition.

The failure of Iraq to emerge from widespread instability is a bitter pill for the United States, which optimistically toppled the Saddam Hussein regime more than four years ago. Millions of Iraqis went to the polls to cast ballots, something that generated great promise for the establishment of a democratic system.

But Iraqi institutions, from the infrastructure to the national government, are widely regarded as ineffective in the fifth year of the war.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, declined to be interviewed for this story, but they issued a joint statement to CNN that reiterated that the country's "fundamental democratic framework is in place" and that "the development of democratic institutions is being encouraged."

And, they said, they are helping Iraqi political leaders find ways "to share power and achieve legislative progress."

But Crocker and Petraeus conceded they are "now engaged in pursuing less lofty and ambitious goals than was the case at the outset."

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of Task Force Lightning, also reflected a less lofty American goal for Iraq's future.

"I would describe it as leaving an effective government behind that can provide services to its people, and security. It needs to be an effective and functioning government that is really a partner with the United States and the rest of the world in this fight against the terrorists," said Mixon, who will not be perturbed if such goals are reached without democracy.

"Well, see that all over the Middle East," he said, stating that democracy is merely an option, that Iraqis are free to choose or reject.

"But that is the $50,000 question. ... What will this government look like? Will it be a democracy? Will it not?" he asked.

Soldiers, he said, are fighting for security, a goal Mixon described as "core to my mission."

To Read the Rest of the Article

Jonathan Rodgers and Marcie Crim: Eight Women Armed with Cameras

(Courtesy of Liz Montgomery)

Eight Women Armed with Cameras
by Jonathan Rodgers and Marcie Crim
Ace Weekly

For the past month, eight women have explored their lives in a new way.

The women, all survivors of violence, were taking part in the state-wide festival, Until the Violence Stops Kentucky, which is designed to bring the issue of violence against women into the public forum.

As part of the festival UTVS: Pieces of Me was created to give these women a crash course in photographic principles and set them loose on the city to share their lives and their struggle to piece those lives back together.



The class met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for three weeks. It began with a rudimentary explanation of photography skills—composition, negative space, the rule of
thirds. Next, we gave each of the participants a camera and told them to shoot an entire roll on just one object. Some of the class participants chose a nearby playground to photograph; other’s focused on neighborhood children.

With the basics out of the way, we turned to lessons on portraiture and then we began to request that the women show the more intimate parts of their lives. At each turn, the class critiqued the photographs for quality, style and content, and the women were given instruction on how to improve their picture-taking skills.
The women grew more confident with each camera and began to turn into real photographers, seeking out inventive subject matter and finding artistically bold ways to tell their stories. One woman wanted to shoot photos of herself underwater in an effort to express rebirth so she purchased an underwater camera and created haunting images.

Another woman in the class kept seeking out bricks to photograph because she has spent, “A lifetime hitting brick walls.”


A photograph of a nameless woman resting on a toilet, smoking a cigarette grabs you—but it is the pattern of large purple bruises traveling up and down her legs that won’t let you go.

All of the photographs clearly allow you to see pieces of the women that are working towards a life free of abuse and addiction. The ages of the women range from very early twenties to mid-fifties. They come from all walks of life and have shared incredibly intimate moments so the rest of us can bear witness to a life on the inside of chaos fighting to get out.

***

Photographs from UTVS: Pieces of Me will be on display at the Carnegie Center beginning Friday August 24th, opening reception at 6pm.

More Events:

Stop the Violence, Stop the Silence

Until the Violence Stops: Kentucky

Ten Years of the International Socialist Review

(Congratulations from the gang her at Dialogic :)

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Ten years of the International Socialist Review

THE FIRST issue of the International Socialist Review appeared ten years ago, in the summer of 1997. The opening editorial announcing its publication staked out what we considered the justification for the inauguration of a self-consciously Marxist magazine in the United States:


The mainstream consensus among the defenders of capitalism is that socialism has collapsed and the free market has won. But look at what the “triumph” of the market really means. Millions of lives are being sacrificed on the altar of profit. Throughout the world, governments committed to the “best business climate” are busily hacking away at workers’ wages and the social safety net.

We argued that the collapse of Stalinism, which had for so many years distorted the real meaning of socialism and Marxism, as well as growing class and social tensions were creating the initial conditions for a revival of class struggle worldwide, a rebuilding of the Left, and within it, a genuine Marxist current. Yet the legacy of McCarthyism in the United States, which had uprooted left politics and organization from the labor movement, and the retreat of the New Left (as well as its “party-building” variant) after the sixties had once again left a political vacuum on the left that wasn’t going to be filled overnight.
Quoting a 1971 essay by British Marxist Duncan Hallas, we concluded:


"The events of the last 40 years largely isolated the revolutionary socialist tradition from the working classes of the West. The first problem is to reintegrate them."
The Review…will stake out an argument that the working class is key to transforming society; that revolution, not piecemeal reforms, is the only way to eliminate the profit system; that only an international struggle of workers, which challenges all forms of sexual, racial and national oppression, can ever hope to win.


We should have added that we would present a consistent line of opposition to U.S. imperial dominance, given that war was such a dominant feature of the decade.
As part of that reintegration process, and of building a broader Left, we have considered it essential not only to present Marxist politics and analysis, but also to open up the pages of the magazine to the broader Left with whom we share both common politics as well as some important differences. We have not always succeeded in our goals. For example, we would like the ISR to contain a great deal more debate, and we sometimes have sacrificed deeper theory for making sure we were covering topical subjects thoroughly; but we have made the attempt, and in the end must leave it to readers to judge the results. The task of making a more sharply defined set of politics (Marxism) relevant to a new generation while at the same time establishing the ISR as a link in the debates and concerns of the broader Left is a balancing act, and we don’t always stay on the wire.

It is instructive to remind ourselves how much has changed in ten years. In 1997, the Wall Street Journal, flush with exuberance over several years of economic boom, declared that “A new consensus is emerging from boardrooms…: ‘The big, bad business cycle has been tamed.’” Globally, the neoliberal “American model”—deregulation, privatization, and “flexible” labor markets—had established itself as the leading economic model. The U.S. economy, after going through a period of relative decline in the 1970s and 1980s, was able to rebound and establish itself as the dominant world economic power.

Through a string of mostly successful military interventions abroad—from the first Gulf War to Clinton’s bombing of Serbia—the U.S. had overcome the “Vietnam Syndrome.” With the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, the U.S. considered itself poised to use its refurbished economic, political, and military clout to alter the balance of world power permanently in its favor.

But there were a number of underlying contradictions, some that were obvious, and others that in hindsight are much easier to see (which this journal did not completely miss). There were the accelerating extreme inequalities of wealth, not only between nations, but between classes within nations; inequalities that were beginning to produce a growing revolt, most prominently in Latin America (and heralded by the 1994 Zapatista uprising), against the twisted priorities of neoliberal capitalism. And there were the underlying problems of overproduction, debt, and trade imbalances that threatened to turn the world economy toward crisis and put an end to Washington and Asia’s “economic miracle.” The outbreak of the Asian crisis heralded a period of growing economic and political tension. Indonesia, the worst hit, saw its economy contract 20 percent, creating mass immiseration; and on its heels, the fall of Indonesia’s dictator Suharto, amid mass protests. The crisis became worldwide in 2001, most dramatically in Argentina, where economic collapse again produced a mass movement that brought down several different presidents.

To Read the Rest of the Editorial

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cosmopolity: Political Action Through Interaction

What is Cosmopolity?

Cosmopolity is an organization dedicated to providing easy entrance into progressive involvement, using social interaction to promote political action and facilitating collaboration among progressive organizations.

The Cosmopolity calendar is a gateway into progressive action in New York City, highlighting events that are effective, accessible and fun. It serves as a central calendar of social-political events and opportunities, a listing of organizations, and a tool that allows you to promote events.

(Cosmopolity is not affiliated with the events listed on this site except for those listed as organized or cosponsored by Cosmopolity or Drinking Liberally. Their inclusion does not constitute an endorsement of the views of the events' organizers or any political candidates or organizations affiliated with those events.)

Amy Goodman: Rove's Science of Dirty Tricks

Rove's Science of Dirty Tricks
By Amy Goodman
Truthdig

Karl Rove’s resignation as deputy White House chief of staff cements the political future of the waning Bush administration. George W. will have little to do except wield his veto pen; he doesn’t need the steadying hand of Rove for that, or his strategic insight. As Rove joins the ranks of discredited politicians who resign “in order to spend more time with family,” a retrospective of his dirty tricks might be in order. Much is attributed to Rove, dubbed “Bush’s Brain” by Texas journalists Wayne Slater and James Moore—yet very little sticks to the man. Bearing in mind that we presume innocence until guilt is proved, read on:

—In 1970, College Republican Rove stole letterhead from the Illinois Democratic campaign of Alan Dixon and used it to invite hundreds of people to Dixon’s headquarters opening, promising “free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing,” disrupting the event.

—In 1973, Rove ran for chair of the College Republicans. He challenged the front-runner’s delegates, throwing the national convention into disarray, after which both he and his opponent, Robert Edgeworth, claimed victory. The dispute was resolved when Rove was selected through the direct order of the chairman of the Republican National Committee, who at the time was none other than George H.W. Bush.

—In 1986, while working for Texas Republican gubernatorial hopeful William Clements, Rove claimed that Rove’s personal office had been bugged, most likely by the campaign of incumbent Democratic Gov. Mark White. Nothing was proved, but the negative press, weeks before the election, helped Rove’s man win a narrow victory. FBI agent Greg Rampton removed the bug, disrupting any attempt to properly investigate who planted it.

—When Rove was an adviser for George W. Bush’s 1994 race for governor of Texas against Democratic incumbent Ann Richards, a persistent whisper campaign in conservative East Texas wrongly suggested that Richards was a lesbian. According to Texas journalist Lou Dubose: “No one ever traced the character assassination to Rove. Yet no one doubts that Rove was behind it. It’s a process on which he holds a patent. Identify your opponent’s strength, and attack it so relentlessly that it becomes a liability. Richards was admired because she promised and delivered a ‘government that looked more like the people of the state.’ That included the appointment of blacks, Hispanics and gays and lesbians. Rove made that asset a liability.”

—After John McCain thumped George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary, with 48 percent of the vote to Bush’s 30 percent, a massive smear campaign was launched in South Carolina, a key battleground. TV attack ads from third groups and anonymous fliers circulated, variously suggesting that McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam had left him mentally scarred with an uncontrollable temper, that his wife, Cindy, abused drugs, and that he had an African-American “love child.” In fact, the McCains adopted their daughter Bridget from a Bangladesh orphanage run by Mother Teresa.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Lucinda Marshall: The War on Iraq's Women

The War on Iraq's Women
by Lucinda Marshall
Feminist Peace Network and AlterNet

The Ministry of Women's Affairs estimates that there are 8 million widows in Iraq, with 350,000 in Baghdad alone.

It almost defies comprehension that such a thing is possible, but as several recent news reports attest, the horrendous circumstances faced by Iraqi women continue to deteriorate. The welfare of pregnant women has been particularly compromised as a result of the constant bombing, curfews, lack of electricity and safe water, bombed hospitals and lack of medicine and medical personnel.

"For at least two women in every 12 who seek emergency delivery assistance here, either the mother or her child dies," Dr Ibrahim Khalil, a gynecologist at Al-Karada maternity hospital, said.


"Mothers are usually anemic and children are born underweight as a result of a poor nutrition and lack of pre-natal care," Khalil said, adding: "There aren't any official figures but we can see that the number [of such cases] has doubled since Saddam Hussein's time."

According to UNICEF,


"Iraq's maternal mortality rates have increased dramatically in the last 15 years. In 1989, 117 mothers out of 100,000 died during pregnancy or childbirth. That figure has now gone up by 65 per cent."

In addition,


"Figures compiled earlier this year by Save the Children show that in 1990 the mortality rate for under-fives was 50 per 1,000 live births. In 2005 it was 125. While other countries have higher rates, the rate of increase in Iraq is higher than elsewhere."

Another specific impact that the violence has had on the lives of Iraqi women is reflected in the alarming numbers of women who are being forced into prostitution. Because of the violence, as well as the cost of living and lack of government infrastructure, many women in Iraq as well as Iraqi women who are now refugees in other countries have had to turn to prostitution in order to feed their families. Widows are particularly vulnerable. As Al Jazeera reports,


"Prior to the US invasion, Iraqi widows, particularly those who lost husbands during the Iran-Iraq war, were provided with compensation and free education for their children. In some cases, they were provided with free homes.


However, no such safety nets currently exist and widows have few resources at their disposal."

According to Al Jazeera, the Ministry of Women's Affairs estimates that there are 8 million widows in Iraq, with 350,000 in Baghdad alone.

The Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) has documented the disappearance of some 4000 women and girls since the U.S. invasion in early 2003. OWFI believes most have been trafficked to other countries and forced into prostitution. OWFI's Yanar Mohammed told CNN,

"At this point there is a population of women who have to sell their bodies in order to keep their children alive. It's a taboo that no one is speaking about."

And as one woman who had turned to prostitution told CNN,

"People shouldn't criticize women, or talk badly about them.They all say we have lost our way, but they never ask why we had to take this path."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thinking

(not to long ago someone told me that I think too much--so I am reposting/revising this ...)

Thinking

It started out innocently enough.

I began to think at parties now and then -- to loosen up.

Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I became concerned about America's occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. I would ask others about our reasons for being there, but no one wanted to talk about it. This caused me to think about it more...

Soon, I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home.

One evening, insisting that we turn off the finals of American Idol, I asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here and how do we contribute to our community?" One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job." This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss.

"Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college
professors, and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on
thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama.

"I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche.

I roared into the parking lot with National Public Radio on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors...They didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night.

Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker.

I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Talladega Nights."

Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed...easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me.

Today, I registered to vote as a Republican.

UNTIL THE VIOLENCE STOPS: KENTUCKY

UNTIL THE VIOLENCE STOPS: KENTUCKY is a two week festival bringing the issue of violence against women and girls front and center. From August 18 to September 1, 2007, UTVS:KY will take over the state, putting women and girls, their empowerment and safety directly on center stage. The Festival issues a call to action to all Kentuckians through theater, art, spoken word, performance and community events: Demand an end to violence against women and girls and become an active partner in ending it. For more information, visit UNTIL THE VIOLENCE STOPS: KENTUCKY

Errol Morris: Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up

(Courtesy of Rob Sica--I excerpted some of the theoretical ideas... but it works best in relation to Morris analysis of ongoing controversies surrounding the identity of the hooded man in the Abu Ghraib torture photos--in other words, if these words are of interest to you, as always, check out the original source. Errol Morris is a succesful commercial filmmaker, a provocative and imaginative documentary filmmaker, and an important theorist of visual images.)

Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up
By Errol Morris
New York Times online column

Every human being has his own particular web of associations for identifying and interpreting reality, which, most often, instinctively and unthinkingly, he superimposes on every set of circumstances. Frequently, however, those external circumstances do not conform with, or fit, the structure of our webs, and then we can misread the unfamiliar reality, and interpret its elements incorrectly…
— Ryszard Kapuscinski, “Travels with Herodotus” (2007)


...

Years ago I became enamored with the writings of Norwood Russell Hanson, a philosopher and ex-fighter pilot who died at the age of 43 while flying his own plane to a lecture engagement at Cornell. Hanson, among others, pioneered the idea that observations in science are not independent of theory but are, on the contrary, quite dependent on it. In his book, “Patterns of Discovery,” published in 1958, he coined the term “theory-laden” and wrote: “there is more to seeing than meets the eye.” I would like to make an even stronger claim: Believing is seeing.

It is said that seeing is believing, but often it’s the other way around. We do not form our beliefs on the basis of what we see; rather, what we see is determined by our beliefs. We see not what is there, but rather what we want to see or expect to see.

The term “belief-laden” could easily be substituted for “theory-laden,” and Hanson’s ideas extended to seeing in general. To use the familiar Gestalt image of the duck-rabbit: if we believe we see a rabbit, we see a rabbit. If we believe we see a duck, we see a duck. And the situation is even worse than the Gestalt psychologists imagined. Often our beliefs completely defeat sensory evidence, or condition us to turn our senses off completely. What is really there? Is it a duck? Is it a rabbit? Or could it be a gerbil?


We see the world in a way that is influenced by our beliefs.

...

So as not to give a leg up to those post-modernist theoreticians who would throw truth out the window along with objectivity, let’s be clear: this is not an assault on truth. There is a real world out there. There is a fact of the matter. ... But a question remains: can photography help us in that endeavor? I am skeptical and would go even further and suggest that photographs attract false beliefs – as fly-paper attracts flies. Why my skepticism? Because photography can make us think we know more than we really know.

...

It is easy to confuse photographs with reality. To many of us, photographs are reality. But however real they may seem, they are not reality. Reality is three-dimensional. Photographs are but two-dimensional, and record only a moment, a short interval of time snatched from the long continuum of before and after. Photographs offer “the ocular proof” demanded by Othello – but judging from Othello’s subsequent behavior, that standard of proof did not serve him well in the end.

When I was a little boy I asked my older brother, If you blow up a photograph can you eventually see atoms? Here is one answer. When you magnify a leaf, in principle, you get down to the atomic level of the leaf. But when you magnify a photograph of a leaf, you get down to the atomic level of the photograph. You can keep magnifying the grains of silver-halide and get down to the atomic level of the silver-halide, but you do not see additional detail of the leaf. As a result of this inherent limitation, photographs are nothing more than coarse-grained screens laid over reality, revealing nothing more (about what is photographed) than a certain size. They provide an imperfect simulacrum of the surface of things.

Othello’s demand for “the ocular proof” is instructive; it calls attention to the importance we put on visual evidence. We, too, rush to think that photographs provide “proof” of something. But proof of what? All photographs leave out information – and leave out more than they include – which allows us to interpret them in ways that suits the cultural needs of our times. They often arrive bereft of context, with little or no pesky sidebar information to interfere with our interpretation of what they might mean or depict. They give our presuppositions – our beliefs – opportunity to prevail over reality.

To Read the Entire Essay

Talking Heads: Saxs and Violins

"Sax and Violins" by Talking Heads
  • Lot of madness in the air...






  • Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Jason Kohn Interview

    "Every single documentary offers its own perspective on the truth. That's what makes cinema cinema. Right? If you're just looking to document completely dispassionately the evidence, cinema, movies - even documentaries - probably should not be where you're looking to work."

    ----Jason Kohn

    To read the interview

    80th anniversary of the executions of Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

    (An announcement from the radical geographer Michael Marchman)

    Today is the 80th anniversary of the executions of Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, in Massachusetts in 1927. Drink a toast to the good fellars (pardoned in 1977 by Michael Dukakis) today -- if you get the chance and have the inclination, that is.

    Two Good Men Lyrics
    By Woody Guthrie, from The Ballads Of Sacco & Vanzetti

    Say, there, did you hear the news?
    Sacco worked at trimmin' shoes;
    Vanzetti was a peddlin' man,
    Pushed his fish cart with his hand.
    Two good men a long time gone,
    Two good men a long time gone,
    Two good men a long time gone,
    Left me here to sing this song.

    Sacco's born across the sea,
    Somewhere over in Italy;
    Vanzetti born of parents fine,
    Drank the best Italian wine.
    Sacco sailed the sea one day,
    Landed up in the Boston Bay.
    Vanzetti sailed the ocean blue,
    An' landed up in Boston, too.

    Sacco's wife three children had;
    Sacco was a family man.
    Vanzetti was a dreamin' man,
    His book was always in his hands.

    Sacco earned his bread and butter
    Bein' the factory's best shoe cutter.
    Vanzetti spoke both day and night,
    Told the workers how to fight.

    I'll tell you if you ask me
    'Bout this payroll robbery.
    Two clerks was killed by the shoe fact'ry,
    On the streets in South Braintree.

    Judge Thayer told his friends around
    That he had cut the radicals down.
    "Anarchist bastard" was the name
    Judge Thayer called these two good men.

    I'll tell you the prosecutor's name,
    Katzman, Adams, Williams, Kane.
    The Judge and lawyers strutted down,
    They done more tricks than circus clowns.

    Vanzetti docked in nineteen eight;
    Slept along the dirty street,
    Told the workers "Organize,"
    And on the 'lectric chair he dies.

    All you people ought to be like me,
    And work like Sacco and Vanzetti,
    And everyday find ways to fight
    On the union side for the workers' rights.

    Well, I ain't got time to tell this tale,
    The dicks and bulls are on my trail.
    But I'll remember these two good men
    That died to show me how to live.

    All you people in Suassos Lane,
    Sing this song and sing it plain.
    All you folks that's comin' along,
    Jump in with me and sing this song.

    Two good men a long time gone,
    Two good men a long time gone,
    Two good men a long time gone,
    Left me here to sing this song.
    -------------------------------------

    Also Democracy Now has a profile:

    * Sacco and Vanzetti: 80 Years After Their Execution, A Look At The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind *

    Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed eighty years ago on August 23, 1927, in Boston, Massachusetts. The trial of the two Italian immigrant anarchists was one of the most controversial in American history. Protests rocked every major city across the world in the days leading up to the execution. We speak with Bruce Watson, author of "Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind."

    Listen/Watch/Read

    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    The Try Works: Churchill Smear Campaign

    The Try Works has an archive of the The [Ward] Churchill Smear campaign.

    Sleepless Nights, Black Hole Sun, Salt of the Earth

    "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden
    Last night I couldn't sleep ... I felt like I had a black hole growing inside of me enveloping my consicousness and pushing to me contemplate beyond my solipsistic perspective... scary, disorienting, but so healthy and needed. I awake today with a smile and skewed view that shakes up my preconceptions allowing me to see a bit further into the murkiness that surrounds my confusing life.







    "Salt of the Earth" by Rolling Stones
    Missing my family ...





    Wassup Rockers

    (My review of Larry Clark's film Wassup Rockers)



    Filmshi has a recent audio interview with the director Larry Clark about his film Wassup Rockers



    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Just In Case You Were Wondering: IRS Email Refund Notices

    I received one today and was impressed by the artful forgery and decided to visit our friends at Snopes and they had an alert that it it completely bogus...

    IRS Refund Notification

    Now I usually assume everyone is savvy to phishing scams these days, but since this one exploits citizen anxieties regarding this bureaucratic monster (aka IRS) I figured I would pass it along.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Dion Dennis: Policing the Convergence of Virtual and Material Worlds

    Policing the Convergence of Virtual and Material Worlds: "The True Object of Police is Man."
    by Dion Dennis
    C-Theory

    Introduction

    In the late 17th Century, German political theorists developed a meta-notion of policing and gave it a name: Polizeiwissenschaft. The term embraces broad policy and policing functions. In The Foucault Effect, Colin Gordon assembled a pastiche of snipped citations and paraphrases to convey the ambitious sweep of the object and the practices of Polizeiwissenschaft. I've reshuffled this mini-mosaic (below):

    Life is the object of police: the indispensable, the useful, and the superfluous ... Police 'sees to living;' 'the objects which it embraces are in some sense indefinite ... [The task of] calculating detailed action appropriate to an infinity of unforeseeable and contingent circumstances is met by [the desire to create] an exhaustive detailed knowledge of reality... [that extends from cataloging the behavior of masses to the micro-details of an individual's life]. . Police is a science of endless lists and classifications ... a knowledge of inexhaustibly detailed and continuous control ... a kind of economic pastorate of men and things ... where the population is likened to a herd and flock ... [1]


    Compare the vision of these Polizeiwissenschaft theorists, as described by Foucault and Gordon, to this description of the near-future, as portrayed by Albrecht and McIntyre:

    Imagine a world where your every purchase is monitored and recorded and your every belonging is numbered ... [Imagine] someone ... in another country has a record of everything that you have ever bought or owned ... every item of clothing... What's more, these items can be tracked remotely... [and] you can also be tracked and monitored remotely through the things you wear, carry and interact with every day. [This is the vision of] the world that Wal-Mart, Target, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, IBM, and [various entities of] the U.S. government want to usher in [by 2015, through the use of cheap, ubiquitous and nearly invisible Radio Frequency Identification technologies]. [2]


    More than three centuries later, the actual, possible and probable use for "an Internet of Things" has met the knowledge production requirements and governance agenda of 18th Century Polizeiwissenschaft theorists. In Postscript on the Societies of Control, Deleuze explained the key change that has reanimated the neo-Polizeiwissenschaft project:

    In disciplinary societies, the individual passes from one closed environment to another: the family; the school; the barracks, the factory ... Now, societies of control, operating with computers, are replacing disciplinary societies ...
    Enclosures are molds ... but controls are a modulation ... that continuously change... perpetual training replaces the school, and continuous control replaces the examination.

    The numerical language of control is made of codes that [allow or disallow] access to information. We no longer deal with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become "dividuals," samples, data, markets, or "banks."

    The operation of markets is now the instrument of social control ... short-term and rapid, but also continuous and without limit, while discipline was of long duration, infinite and discontinuous ... [3]


    One center for these new modulations of social control is the emerging "Internet of Things," where data collection and analysis devices are ubiquitous, interactive, hyper-intensive, decentralized, cheap and mobile. [4] Freed from the need for permanent enclosures (to observe, record, shape and discipline) by iterating generations of smaller, cheaper, faster and more powerful RFID and GPS chips, the capacity for continuous observation, judgment and control of "men and things" becomes broader, and deeper. As a constituent feature of this moment, these ubiquitous and mobile technologies de facto shred "taken-for-granted" categories of late modernity, such as the once-conventional distinctions between public and private.

    To Read the Rest of the Essay

    William Deresiewicz: Love on Campus

    (Eros is and always will be a part of teaching/learning... we are trying to get our students to fall in love with the idea of learning and thinking as a lifelong romance ... we talk in poetic language and encourage romantic discourse... highly charged discussions of concepts and ideas... and we desire for our students to question their own received beliefs and explore new cultural meanings ... are we seducing them away from the comfortable life of blind acceptance of things as they are and always will be? Thanks to Teresa Webb who sent me this essay.)
    --------------------------------------------------------

    Love on Campus: Why we should understand, and even encourage, a certain sort of erotic intensity between student and professor
    By William Deresiewicz
    The American Scholar

    Excerpt:

    That is why, for the Greeks, the teacher’s relationship with the child was regarded as more valuable and more intimate than the parents’. Your parents bring you into nature, but your teacher brings you into culture. Natural transmission is easy; any animal can do it. Cultural transmission is hard; it takes a teacher. But Socrates also inaugurated a new idea about what teaching means. His students had already been educated into their culture by the time they got to him. He wanted to educate them out of it, teach them to question its values. His teaching wasn’t cultural, it was counter-cultural. The Athenians understood Socrates very well when they convicted him of corrupting their youth, and if today’s parents are worried about trusting their children to professors, this countercultural possibility is really what they should be worried about. Teaching, as Neil Postman says, is a subversive activity — all the more so today, when children are marinated in cultural messages from the moment they’re born. It no longer takes any training to learn to bow to your city’s gods (sex or children, money or nation). But it often takes a teacher to help you question those gods. The teacher’s job, in Keats’s terms, is to point you through the vale of soul-making. We’re born once, into nature and into the culture that quickly becomes a second nature. But then, if we’re granted such grace, we’re born again. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his mortal soul?

    This is the kind of sex professors are having with their students behind closed doors: brain sex. And this is why we put up with the mediocre pay and the cultural contempt, not to mention the myriad indignities of graduate school and the tenure process. I know perfectly well that not every professor or every student feels this way or acts this way, nor does every university make it possible for them to do so. There are hacks and prima donnas at the front of many classrooms, slackers and zombies in the seats. And it doesn’t matter who’s in either position if the instructor is teaching four classes at three different campuses or if there are 500 people in the lecture hall. But there are far more true teachers and far more true students at all levels of the university system than those at its top echelons like to believe. In fact, kids who have had fewer educational advantages before they get to college are often more eager to learn and more ready to have their deepest convictions overturned than their more fortunate peers. And it is often away from the elite schools — where a single-minded focus on research plus a talent for bureaucratic maneuvering are the necessary tickets to success — that true teaching most flourishes.

    What attracts professors to students, then, is not their bodies but their souls. Young people are still curious about ideas, still believe in them — in their importance, their redemptive power. Socrates says in the Symposium that the hardest thing about being ignorant is that you’re content with yourself, but for many kids when they get to college, this is not yet true. They recognize themselves as incomplete, and they recognize, if only intuitively, that completion comes through eros. So they seek out professors with whom to have relationships, and we seek them out in turn. Teaching, finally, is about relationships. It is mentorship, not instruction. Socrates also says that the bond between teacher and student lasts a lifetime, even when the two are no longer together. And so it is. Student succeeds student, and I know that even the ones I’m closest to now will soon become names in my address book and then just distant memories. But the feelings we have for the teachers or students who have meant the most to us, like those we have for long-lost friends, never go away. They are part of us, and the briefest thought revives them, and we know that in some heaven we will all meet again.

    The truth is that these possibilities are not quite as alien to American culture as I’ve been making out. Along with the new stereotype that’s dominated the portrayal of academics in film and fiction in recent years has come, far less frequently, a different image of what a college teacher can be and mean, exactly along the lines I’ve been tracing. It is there in Julia Roberts’s character in Mona Lisa Smile, in the blind professor who teaches Cameron Diaz’s character to love poetry in In Her Shoes, and most obviously, in Tuesdays with Morrie, that gargantuan cultural phenomenon. Robin Williams offered a scholastic version in Dead Poets Society. But we seem to need to keep the idea, or at least the person who embodies it, at a safe distance. Both Mona Lisa Smile and Dead Poets Society take place in the 1950s and at single-sex schools. Cameron Diaz’s mentor and Morrie Schwartz are retired and dying. The Socratic relationship is so profoundly disturbing to our culture that it must be defused before it can be approached. Yet many thousands of kids go off to college every year hoping, at least dimly, to experience it. It has become a kind of suppressed cultural memory, a haunting imaginative possibility. In our sex-stupefied, anti-intellectual culture, the eros of souls has become the love that dares not speak its name.

    To read the entire essay

    King Tubby: "Earl Zero: Righteous Works/ Righteous Dub"

    "Earl Zero: Righteous Works/ Righteous Dub" by King Tubby





    Sonic Youth: Small Flowers Crack Concrete

    Small flowers crack concrete



    small flowers crack concrete
    narcotic squads sweep thru poet dens
    spilling coffe grabbing 15 yr old runaway girls
    by frazzled ponytailed hair + tossing them
    into backseats of cop cars
    the narcs beat the bearded oracles
    replacing tantric love with
    complete violence

    lights + mirrors dot the city
    inkstained hippies w/ boxed lunch + marijuana
    mystery plays of shit and nothingness
    blessed by colors from a black hat

    blue lights search thru weeds
    searching for the heart of d.a.levy
    and the mind he left behind

    what didjoo expect? another mystic wreck?
    thats whatchoo got crawling in yr panic net
    whatdidjoo bring me? not a goddamn thing yet
    + whatdidjoo leave me? another tombstone dream yeh
    o salacious mansion, the boys held for ransom
    didja see where he's gone? the blasted summers dawn
    fucked up in cleveland fucked up in cleveland
    short flight to nothing heavens up to something heavens up to something
    levys up to something levys up to something

    death poems for the living gods of america
    plastic saxophones bleat, bleed for nothing, nada
    cops crashing thru doors infuriated by silver charms
    of suburban smoke
    at war with patches of red dirt glitter
    and bluejean fucking
    + protest

    Listen to the song:

    New Issue of Reconstruction: Transgressing the Frontier Film

    Reconstuction: Studies in Contemporary Culture

    Transgressing the Frontier Film Issue Announcement, CFP: Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ongoing; journal issue)

    Reconstruction is proud to announce the publication of its Vol. 7, No. 3 (2007) themed issue, " Transgressing the Frontier: Modernity, American Ideology, and Cinema,"Featured in the issue:

    * Martin Flanagan, "Re-Making Time: Chronotopes of the West in Lone Star (1996) and The Searchers (1956)"

    * tyler lorey adams, "The Geography of Frontier"

    * Deborah Shaw, "Robert Rodriguez's Mexicans in Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)"

    * Mike Taormina, "Breaking Bonds in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and Fight Club (1999)"

    * Todd Comer, "Pacifism as Ideological Complicity in The Big Lebowski (1998)"

    * Markus Rheindorf, "The Line Must be Drawn Here: The Body as the Final Frontier in Science Fiction Films of the 1990s"

    * Anthony Enns, "A Name in Search of a Disease: Illness and Identity in Todd Haynes' Safe (1995)"

    * Marc Ouellette, "'Everybody Else Ain't Your Father': Reproducing Masculinity in Cinematic Sports, 1975-2000"

    * Cheryl Greene, "S for Scopic: Wellesian Myths of the Border and White Female Beauty"

    * Zach Saltz, "A History Without Lightning: African American Image in Early Cinema, 1895-1915"

    Reconstruction is now accepting submissions for the following upcoming themed issues:

    * Class, Culture and Public Intellectuals (reviews only, ASAP)
    * Visualization and Narrative (deadline December 15, 2007)
    * Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research (deadline October 31, 2007)

    For individual CFP requirements and guest editor contact information, please check our "Upcoming Issues"

    Reconstruction is also accepting submissions for upcoming Open Issues. The next Open Issue is scheduled for publication in Fall 2007. Please consult our Submission Guidelines found at Guidelines

    Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ISSN: 1547-4348) is an innovative cultural studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies. Reconstruction publishes one open issue and three themed issues quarterly.

    Reconstruction is indexed in the MLA International Bibliography.

    All submissions and submission queries should be written care of reconstruction.submissions@gmail.com

    CFP: Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research (10/31)

    UPDATE: Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research (10/31/07; journal issue)

    Due date for submissions moved up to October 31, 2007.

    Call for Papers
    Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research
    Journal Issue, Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture

    Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ISSN: 1547-4348) is an innovative online cultural studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies. Reconstruction publishes one open issue and three themed issues quarterly.

    Vibha Arora and Justin Scott-Coe invite submissions of papers and review essays for Reconstruction 9.1: Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Research (2009). Fieldwork transforms our identities in the field, in our discipline, and the discipline itself. In this issue we aim to situate the contours of future fields of study, and celebrate the intersecting pathways that unite the diverse disciplines through hybrid methodologies. This special issue of Reconstruction explores the relationship between fieldwork and interdisciplinary research on the environment, health, social science and science and technology, cyberspace, visual culture and communications, films and public culture, music and the performing arts, sociology and anthropology and literature, development and public policy. Young researchers play a critical role in dissolving disciplinary barriers and experimenting with new research methodologies and thematic areas; hence, submissions by advanced graduate students are being encouraged. Multi-media projects are also welcome.

    Abstracts giving the title of paper, author’s name and affiliation (with a short biographical note) are due 31 October 2007. Selected abstracts will be invited to submit full papers for peer-review by 15 December 2007. Publication is expected in the first quarter of 2009. Send submissions and further inquiries to Dr. Vibha Arora and Justin Scott-Coe .

    Reconstruction Style guidelines are available at http://reconstruction.eserver.org/guidelines.shtml.

    In addition to papers, we are soliciting book reviews, review essays, and reviews of music, exhibitions, photographs, etc. having an interdisciplinary focus.

    Vibha and Justin

    CFP: Visualization and Narrative (12/15)

    Call For Papers
    Visualization and Narrative: A themed issue of Reconstruction

    Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture
    is soliciting papers for a special themed
    issue on visualisation and narrative--with special reference to
    filmmaking, information design, and computing.

    Visualisation consists of the visual representation and analysis of
    processes over time, in dynamically changing information spaces.

    As filmmaking has moved to digital formats in writing screenplays,
    making images and sounds and editing and manipulating those images,
    all filmmaking processes are actually or potentially subject to
    visualisation.

    This has led to new metaphors--for example the timeline, and the
    possibility of applying techniques such as data mining and network
    mapping to other areas of film production.

    Papers looking at current and possible application of visualisation
    techniques to the writing, realising and editing of films are
    particularly encouraged. Papers can for example look at the influence
    of interface design and visualisation on film practice and aesthetics.
    This will include the effect of non-linear editing and effects and the
    introduction of the timeline as a dominant metaphor for visualisation
    in film.

    We would also like to encourage contributions from scientific
    disciplines where visualisation has transformed the understanding of
    the process, or enabled a different perception of narrative.

    Film is particularly interesting as a focus of study, because as well
    as being an industrial and aesthetic practice which can be differently
    approached and understood through visualisation, it is itself a form
    of visualisation, which transforms social relationships and events
    into image-based narrative developing over time. Film language is
    therefore the ultimate source of many of the techniques of
    visualisation. We see potential for a productive dialogue between
    disciplines which looks at the changes that visualisation can or will
    bring to filmmaking but also looks at what film language and film
    techniques have to contribute to visualisation and the dynamic
    relationship between visualisation and narrative.

    Completed papers are are to be submitted by December 15, 2007 to Lina
    Khatib . Revisions will be due in March 2008;
    publication expected in October 2008.

    Guest Editors: Adam Ganz and Lina Khatib

    About the journal: Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture
    (ISSN: 1547-4348) is an innovative,
    peer-reviewed cultural studies journal dedicated to fostering an
    intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience,
    granting them all the ability to share thoughts and opinions on the
    most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary
    studies. Reconstruction is published quarterly--in the third week of
    January, April, July, October--and is indexed in the MLA International
    Bibliography.

    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Long Sunday: Suspension of Disbelief

    Suspension of Disbelief
    by Squibb
    Long Sunday

    (The following contains spoilers for the latest Bourne film – though its nothing you couldn’t reasonably guess if you’ve seen such a movie in the last 20 years.)



    Towards the end of the latest Bourne movie, moralistic CIA cog Joan Allen - having acquired a black bag full of dirty agency secrets - hides herself in a basement, dutifully faxing off the incriminating pages. She is blowing the whistle on the Blackbriar program, an almost comically small-time (by present standards) assassin-training program, responsible, in addition to waxing several internationals, for killing a couple of U.S. citizens. The aggregate response to this information is consistent with the genre – outrage towards the Program, accolades for Allen, a fictional President commissions a special investigation, and our bad guy CIA cogs are shown being taken away in cuffs. Movie over - world safe.

    It happens that in this week’s New Yorker there is a lengthy article detailing the set-up and operation of the CIA black-sites in the years following 9/11. Explained at length is the resurrection and perfection of Cold War torture techniques by head CIA policy makers, the process by which thousands were kidnapped and deported, regardless of nationality, and the generally illegal and reprehensible conduct of the agency over the past six years. The fact that none of this is really news mitigates only slightly the effect of reading this information in the New Yorker, and even less the resounding silence to which this article will, undoubtedly, be met.

    To Read the Rest of the Post

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Douglas Rushkoff: What You Can Learn From Zombie Movies

    (Continuing the stream of Zombie critiques)



    What You Can Learn from Zombie Movies: With lessons on science, consumerism, and the soul, a truly educational genre
    by Douglas Rushkoff
    Discover

    The undead are everywhere these days. The popular summer movie 28 Weeks Later pits them against the U.S. military. The comic series Marvel Zombies has them eating the Silver Surfer. The video game Dead Rising lets players attack them with weapons ranging from hockey pucks to shower heads. A recent CBS pilot, Babylon Fields, imagines what would happen if the undead tried to integrate back into their former lives.

    No other horror creatures invite quite the same breadth of paranoid speculation as zombies, perhaps because they embody such a pure, reflective sense of terror: animated corpses dependent on living flesh for survival. No wolf mythology, no castles, no capes, no fangs; just dead people eating flesh. In short, except for the “being dead” part, they’re just like us. I’d venture this accounts for their popularity over decades of cinema, as well as their more recent migration to other popular media. Zombie movies force us to figure out what, if anything, differentiates us from the monsters on the screen.

    The zombie legend originated in the spiritual practices of Afro-Caribbean sects that believed a person could be robbed of his soul by supernatural or shamanic means and forced to work as an uncomplaining slave. Canadian ethno­botanist Wade Davis studied Haitian voodoo rituals in the 1980s and determined that a kind of “zombie” state can be induced with powerful naturally derived drugs. In horror films, people become zombies by whatever process is deemed scariest by the filmmaker of the era—magic, possession, viral infection—but the result is the same. The victim becomes a walking corpse, a human without a soul.

    In this sense, all movies are zombie movies. Lifeless frames of celluloid passed in front of a bright bulb 24 times a second yield moving images convincing enough to make us believe there are living people up there on a screen, moving about with purpose. If the craft is done right, we care about those phantoms as much as we do for real people—alas, sometimes more than those we see suffering on the evening news.

    Indeed, zombies are the perfect horror creations for a ­media-saturated age overloaded with reports of terrorism, famine, disease, and warfare. Zombies tap into our primal fear of ­being consumed and force us to come up with something—anything—to distinguish ourselves from the ever-hungry, animated corpses traipsing about the countryside and eating flesh. Deep down, these schlocky horror flicks are asking some of the most profound questions: What is life? Why does it depend on killing and consuming other life? Does this cruel reality of survival have any intrinsic meaning?

    The way in which zombie movies pose these questions has changed significantly over time, telling us more about ourselves, and about what we most fear, in the process. Zombies have been a staple of American filmmaking since the indie flick White Zombie (1932), best remembered for its eerie shots of undead slaves staring into the night. In that movie, Bela Lugosi plays an evil sorcerer who promises to turn a woman into a zombie so that her spurned lover can control her forever, presumably as a mindless sex servant. Perfect fare for a nation finally reckoning with its own population of former slaves, as well as one of preliberated females just beginning to find their own voices. Back then, though, the big questions seemed to have more to do with whether a walking dead servant or wife could fully satisfy a man’s needs. (Given the outcome, apparently not.)

    By 1968, George Romero’s classic, low-budget Night of the Living Dead had reversed this dynamic. Now it was up to the film’s human protagonists to distinguish themselves from the marauding bands of flesh eaters—and to keep from being eaten. Racial conflicts among the film’s living characters end up costing them valuable time and resources; against the backdrop of attacking zombies, the racial tension of the late 1960s seems positively ludicrous. The film’s African American hero survives the night but is mistaken for a zombie and shot dead the next morning.

    The film’s sequels had survivors holing up in places like shopping malls, through which zombies would wander aimlessly all day, as if retracing the steps of their former lives as consumers. Of course, the real consumption begins when the zombies find humans on whom to feast—an irony not lost on one tough guy who, as his intestines are being eaten, has enough wit to shout, “Choke on ’em!” What makes the humans for whom we’re rooting any different from the zombies by whom we’re repulsed? Not much, except maybe cannibalism, and the technical distinction that our humans are living while the zombies are “living dead.”

    To Read the Rest of the Article