Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hearsay Culture: Alex Wright on Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages

Hearsay Culture (Center For Internet and Society)
Host: David Levine

Alex Wright, author of Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages. Alex’s book traces the history of information science and weaves together a lot of information (appropriately) to create a narrative showing the growth of libraries, access to information and how information is organized.

To Listen to the Episode

Richard Posner: Copyright

Richard Posner: Copyright
Ethics Bites (Open University)
Host: Nigel Warbuton

Aged seventeen Kaavya Viswanathan signed a two-year book contract with the publisher Little Brown. The publisher agreed an advance of $500,000 and she sold the movie rights. By the time the first book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, was published in April 2006, she was nineteen and a sophomore at Harvard.

Within weeks the Harvard Crimson magazine discovered that her book reproduced almost verbatim, many passages from similar so-called ‘chick-lit’ novels. It seemed to be a blatant case of plagiarism. Indeed, so is this – because I’ve just reproduced, close to word-for-word, the opening passage of Richard Posner’s The Little Book of Plagiarism. So what exactly is plagiarism, how does it differ from copyright, and what’s wrong with it? Richard Posner is a judge and - he spoke to Ethics Bites down a somewhat crackly line from his home town of Chicago.

To Listen/Read

After Words: Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule

Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule interviewed by Jeanne Cummings, Chief Lobbying and Influence Correspondent for Politico
Book TV: After Words (CSPAN)

Thomas Frank, author of “What’s The Matter With Kansas” argues that conservatives have encouraged the privatization of the government in “The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule.” Mr. Frank profiles the lobbyists, politicians, and pundits who he claims have placed the free market over effective government. Thomas Frank discusses his book with Jeanne Cummings, chief lobbying and influence correspondent for Politico.

To Listen to the Interview

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Roy Wagner: The Invention of Culture

("Anthropologist" in this case could refer to anyone applying/researching critically a culture and is attempting to understand how they shape/are shaped-by their studies)

Wagner, Roy. The Invention of Culture. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1975.

The idea that man invents his own realities is not a new one ... Nevertheless, the prospect of introducing this idea to ... a culture that wants very much to control its own realities (as all cultures do) is a difficult one. (Wagner, 1975: vii)

“Absolute” objectivity would require that the anthropologist have no biases, and hence no culture at all. (Wagner, 1975: 2)

We might actually say that an anthropologist “invents” the culture he believes himself to be studying ... Yet this explanation is only justified if we understand the invention to take place objectively, along the lines of observing and learning, and not as a kind of free fantasy. ... It is only through “invention” of this kind that the abstract significance of culture (and of many another concept) can be grasped, and only through the experienced contrast that his own culture becomes “visible.” In the act of inventing another culture, the anthropologist invents his own, and in fact he reinvents the notion of culture itself. (Wagner, 1975: 4)

This feeling is known to anthropologists as “culture shock.” In it the local “culture” first manifests itself to the anthropologist through his own inadequacy; against the backdrop of his new surroundings it is he who has become “visible.” The situation has some parallels within our own society: the freshman first entering college, the new army recruit, and anyone else who is compelled to live in “new” or alien surroundings, all have had some taste of this kind of “shock.” Typically the sufferer is depressed and anxious, he may withdraw into himself, or grasp at any chance to communicate with others. To a degree that we seldom realize, we depend on the participation of others in our lives, and upon our own participation in the lives of others. Our success and effectiveness as persons is based upon this participation, and upon an ability to maintain a controlling competence in communicating with others. Culture shock is a loss of the self through the loss of these supports. (Wagner, 1975: 6-7)

His efforts to understand the subjects of his research, to make them and their ways meaningful, and to communicate this meaningfulness to others, will grow out of his abilities to make meaning within his own culture. Whatever he “learns” from his subjects will therefore take the form of an extension or superstructure, built upon that which he already knows, and built of that which he already knows. He will “participate” in the subject culture, not in the way a native does, but as someone who is simultaneously enveloped in his own world of meanings, and these meanings will also participate. If we recall what was said earlier about relative objectivity, we remember it is the set of cultural predispositions that an outsider brings with him that make all the difference in his understanding of what is “there.” (Wagner, 1975: 8)

If culture were an absolute, objective “thing,” then “learning” it would be the same for all people, native as well as outsider, adult as well as child. But people have all sorts of predispositions and biases, and the notion of culture as an objective, inflexible entity can only be useful as a sort of “prop” to aid the anthropologist in his invention and understanding. For this, and for many other purposes in anthropology, it is necessary to proceed as if culture existed as some monolithic “thing,” but for the purpose of demonstrating how it is that an anthropologist attains his comprehension of another, it is necessary to realize the culture is a “prop.” (Wagner, 1975: 8-9)

BusinessWeek/Expose/Bill Moyers Journal: The Business of Poverty

The Business of Poverty: Inside U.S. companies' audacious drive to extract more profits from the nation's working poor
BusinessWeek, Expose: America's Investigative Reports and Bill Moyers Journal

As more companies view low-income Americans as opportunities for profit, the "poverty business" is booming. BILL MOYERS JOURNAL and EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS follow a team of BUSINESSWEEK reporters as they track new corporate practices that some say exploit the working poor.

BUSINESSWEEK's coverage of the burgeoning poverty industry goes beyond the currently much debated practices of the sub-prime mortgage industry to other credit providers —for auto, consumer goods, and even student loans. A second part of the investigation delves into the way that a "growing number of hospitals, working with a range of financial companies, are squeezing revenue from patients with little or no health insurance."

To Watch/Read the Report and to access more resources

Bill Moyers Journal: Andrew J. Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich
Bill Moyers Journal

As campaign ads urge voters to consider who will be a better "Commander in Chief," Andrew J. Bacevich — Professor of International Relations at Boston University, retired Army colonel, and West Point graduate — joins Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to encourage viewers to take a step back and connect the dots between U.S. foreign policy, consumerism, politics, and militarism.

Bacevich begins his new book, THE LIMITS OF POWER: THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, with an epigraph taken from the Bible: "Put thine house in order." Bacevich explained his choice to Bill Moyers:

I've been troubled by the course of U.S. foreign policy for a long, long time. And I wrote the book in order to sort out my own thinking about where our basic problems lay. And I really reached the conclusion that our biggest problems are within.

I think there's a tendency in the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of many Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are here at home.

Bacevich sees three crises looming in the United States today, as he explains in the introduction to THE LIMITS OF POWER.

The United States today finds itself threatened by three interlocking crises. The first of these crises is economic and cultural, the second political, and the third military. All three share this characteristic: They are of our own making. In assessing the predicament that results from these crises, THE LIMITS OF POWER employs what might be called a Niebuhrean perspective. Writing decades ago, Reinhold Niebuhr anticipated that predicament with uncanny accuracy and astonishing prescience. As such, perhaps more than any other figure in our recent history, he may help us discern a way out.

To Watch/Read this interview and to read the introduction to The Limits of Power

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bill Moyers Journal: Philip P. Pan

Philip Pan
Bill Moyers Journal

As the Olympics are set to close, Bill Moyers interviews Philip Pan, foreign correspondent and former Beijing bureau chief for the WASHINGTON POST, on how the emerging economic power of China looks from the ground.

Philip P. Pan is a foreign correspondent for THE WASHINGTON POST and the newspaper's former Beijing bureau chief. During his tour from 2000 to 2007, he won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in international reporting, the Overseas Press Club's Bob Considine Award for best newspaper interpretation of international affairs, and the Asia Society's Osborn Elliott Prize for excellence in journalism about Asia. He lives with his wife and son in New York, and will begin a new assignment as the Moscow bureau chief for THE POST in 2008.

Philip Pan's new book OUT OF MAO'S SHADOW documents the difficult lives of those changing China from within. From a blind lawyer fighting the one child policy to a real estate maven, made wealthy by the opening up of the economy.

To Watch/Read

Bill Moyer's Journal: The Middle Class Squeeze

(In the shadow of the corporate-funded carnival Americans are struggling to make ends meet.)

The Middle Class Squeeze
Bill Moyer's Journal

With celebrations set to kick off in Denver for the Democratic National Convention, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL travels to Colorado where tough economic times are hitting suburban communities. Says Mag Strittmatter, of JeffCo Action Center, a social services agency just west of Denver, "It's remarkable how many people have, in the past, brought items to us at our loading dock. They gave us clothes, and gave us food, and said, ‘Here, use these items to help people in need.’ They're the same people having to ask for help."

To Listen to the Episode

Online Storytelling & Cause Marketing: An Interview with Jonah Sachs of Free Range Studios

Online Storytelling & Cause Marketing: An Interview with Jonah Sachs of Free Range Studios
Big Vision and Have Fun. Do Good
Host: Britt Bravo

Jonah Sachs: We were founded as Free Range Graphics, but we are actually called Free Range Studios now. Free Range Studios is an advertising and marketing firm that specializes in progressive non-profit and socially responsible businesses, but we are best known for our online storytelling. We do a lot of print design; we started in website design; what we do that people see the most is online storytelling.

As we've grown up with it, and we've been doing it since about 1998, it has suddenly become the sort of thing that everybody is talking about now, is how do you do online advertising content that is entertaining and engaging. We've been doing that in the non-profit and social activism space for this whole time. Up until now, we've really found that it is an advantage that cause marketing has over traditional marketing, just in that people like to pass along educational or cause-related messages more than they do traditional advertisements. With so many new people entering the space, hopefully, we'll be able to keep that edge. I know that corporations are really desperate to get into it as well.

We have offices in Washington DC and in Berkeley, California, and there are about 25 of us now. We work for clients across the board from non-profits like the ACLU and Greenpeace to more political causes. We did John Kerry for President, before that, Howard Dean for America. We also work with some socially responsible businesses like Green Mountain Coffee Roasters; we are working with Annie's Organic right now, and so a broad mix of people who are trying to make the world a better place.
Britt: How did you get started?
Jonah: I started Free Range with a friend of mine, Louis Fox, when we were 22 years old. We've been friends since we were seven, so we already had a very long collaborative history. Louis is a traditional artist and I was in the journalism field. We wanted to combine our talents and felt graphic design would be a good place to start. We had been working on films as kids for a long time; we liked the kind of mass communication. We also were both committed to social activism and felt shut out of the advertising world because we felt it was a really interesting medium, but we also felt that it wouldn't be right to spread messages that we did not believe in.

When we started in Washington in 1998, we had an idea that we would just give it a shot. We put up a website; we did not even have any practical experience in the field, but we put up a website and said that we only serve progressive non-profits. We hadn't started political or socially responsible businesses at that point. We just sort of put it out there, and it's a very small community and a very loyal community, especially in Washington, of progressive people. People really responded well to that, and that has been our niche ever since. We've stayed true to that even though some opportunities have come up to leave that, but that is what really gets us excited.
Britt: One of your most famous campaigns is "The Meatrix." Can you talk a little bit about its evolution?
Jonah: Well, I forget now how when we did it. 2002? When we first got together to do The Meatrix, we actually had this idea to do a Gratitude Grant to our clients as a way of just saying thank you and also getting more known in the field, so we put out this call for grant applications and said, we'll give away a free flash movie. We also did it because we wanted creative control over our project. We hadn't really had full creative control over a project yet, so we figured if we gave one away to a worthy cause, we could really get our creative thinking completely unfiltered through it.

We got about 75 applications and one of them came from Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, which is called GRACE. They wanted to do something about factory farming, and that has really been an issue that has been close to Louis' and my heart for a long time. It really combines so many different problems in society, from environmental concerns, labor concerns, animal rights concerns, health concerns and we just saw it as this great nexus of all these different things that if we could solve this problem -- which we probably never could completely solve it, it's so endemic to our society -- but if we can address it, then we are addressing a lot of different issues.

We said, "All right, let's take on this issue," both, because it's really important from an intellectual, social point of view, but also it's a great challenge creatively because it's such an unappealing, difficult message to get out there and groups in the past have really struggled to get people to look at this issue because it's unappealing, it's gross, it's ugly and so we said, "Let's take on this greater challenge and see if we can come up with something that talks about the issue in a different way."

We spent about three months really digging through tons of different ideas that we had and kept running into the same roadblock, that it was just kind of a downer. You were not giving anybody anything by telling him or her their food came from a terrible place; you were just kind of bumming them out. Maybe the hardcore people who are into this issue would be interested, but no one else would.

One day, we started talking about how important it was for people to realize that factory farming was so bad, that we had to create this fake world in which food comes from a happy farm. You were looking at food labels and how it has nothing to do with the reality; it's so bad we cannot even really look at it, and so we started saying, "Oh, you know that's a little bit like The Matrix. That got us thinking about that scene where Keanu Reeves is plucked out of that pod when he was first woken up, and I thought, that is like a factory farm.

One thing that we've gotten to learn over the years, is that when you start trying to build metaphorical bridges between an issue and a piece of pop culture, which is the best way to move anything anyway, if the bridges start getting built in a "meant to be" way, there is no reason that one bridge should also lead to another because maybe it's like The Matrix in this way, but why would it be like The Matrix in five other ways, too? When they start falling into place like that, and even down to the name, The Meatrix, was actually the last thing we came up with.

I remember sitting in a concert, we had everything done except the name. I don't know why, but we just couldn't think of the right name for it. When the name came, it was like it was pre-made and meant to be that way. It just felt right that there were so many metaphorical connections between the two and I think that people saw that.

We get instant feedback about how successful our stuff is because the web provides numbers, hard numbers about who sees what you do. We often know when we hit something just right; it will resonate with other people. We knew when we put The Meatrix out, in a lot of ways that we had hit something that resonated and was just meant to be. I think that we really succeeded also in making it kinds of consumable, fun and funny without trivializing the issue.

We've been trying since then to learn all those lessons and continue to make more stuff like that. Sometimes it's very successful, and yet there is no real formula for it. Each issue need its own creative thinking, and a lot of times we aren't able to come up with something like The Meatrix, but sometimes we are, and that is what is really fun.

To Read the Rest of the Interview

Listen to the Interview

Bruce E. Levine: How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness

How Teenage Rebellion Has Become a Mental Illness
By Bruce E. Levine

Big pharma has some new customers. Not complying with authority is now, in many cases, labeled a disease.

For a generation now, disruptive young Americans who rebel against authority figures have been increasingly diagnosed with mental illnesses and medicated with psychiatric (psychotropic) drugs.

Disruptive young people who are medicated with Ritalin, Adderall and other amphetamines routinely report that these drugs make them "care less" about their boredom, resentments and other negative emotions, thus making them more compliant and manageable. And so-called atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Zyprexa -- powerful tranquilizing drugs -- are increasingly prescribed to disruptive young Americans, even though in most cases they are not displaying any psychotic symptoms.

Many talk show hosts think I'm kidding when I mention oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). After I assure them that ODD is in fact an official mental illness -- an increasingly popular diagnosis for children and teenagers -- they often guess that ODD is simply a new term for juvenile delinquency. But that is not the case.

Young people diagnosed with ODD, by definition, are doing nothing illegal (illegal behaviors are a symptom of another mental illness called conduct disorder). In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created oppositional defiant disorder, defining it as "a pattern of negativistic, hostile and defiant behavior." The official symptoms of ODD include "often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules" and "often argues with adults." While ODD-diagnosed young people are obnoxious with adults they don't respect, these kids can be a delight with adults they do respect; yet many of them are medicated with psychotropic drugs.

An even more common reaction to oppressive authorities than overt defiance is some type of passive defiance.

John Holt, the late school critic, described passive-aggressive strategies employed by prisoners in concentration camps and slaves on plantations, as well as some children in classrooms. Holt pointed out that subjects may attempt to appease their rulers while still satisfying some part of their own desire for dignity "by putting on a mask, by acting much more stupid and incompetent than they really are, by denying their rulers the full use of their intelligence and ability, by declaring their minds and spirits free of their enslaved bodies."

Holt observed that by "going stupid" in a classroom, children frustrate authorities through withdrawing the most intelligent and creative parts of their minds from the scene, thus achieving some sense of potency.

Going stupid -- or passive aggression -- is one of many nondisease explanations for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Studies show that virtually all ADHD-diagnosed children will pay attention to activities that they enjoy or that they have chosen. In other words, when ADHD-labeled kids are having a good time and in control, the "disease" goes away.

There are other passive rebellions against authority that have been medicalized by mental health authorities. I have talked to many people who earlier in their lives had been diagnosed with substance abuse, depression and even schizophrenia but believe that their "symptoms" had in fact been a kind of resistance to the demands of an oppressive environment. Some of these people now call themselves psychiatric survivors.

While there are several reasons for behavioral disruptiveness and emotional difficulties, rebellion against an oppressive environment is one common reason that is routinely not even considered by many mental health professionals. Why? It is my experience that many mental health professionals are unaware of how extremely obedient they are to authorities. Acceptance into medical school and graduate school and achieving a Ph.D. or M.D. means jumping through many meaningless hoops, all of which require much behavioral, attentional and emotional compliance to authorities -- even disrespected ones. When compliant M.D.s and Ph.D.s begin seeing noncompliant patients, many of these doctors become anxious, sometimes even ashamed of their own excessive compliance, and this anxiety and shame can be fuel for diseasing normal human reactions.

Two ways of subduing defiance are to criminalize it and to pathologize it, and U.S. history is replete with examples of both. In the same era that John Adams' Sedition Act criminalized criticism of U.S. governmental policy, Dr. Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry (his image adorns the APA seal), pathologized anti-authoritarianism. Rush diagnosed those rebelling against a centralized federal authority as having an "excess of the passion for liberty" that "constituted a form of insanity." He labeled this illness "anarchia."

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David Church: Alejandro Jodorowsky

(A very reasonably priced box set of Jodorowski's films and soundtracks is now available--see last image.)

Alejandro Jodorowsky
by David Church
Senses of Cinema

Venerated by cult cinema enthusiasts while dismissed by most other critics, the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky present strange and magical visions that are not easily categorised or understood. Informed by a lifetime of spiritual journey, Jodorowsky's cinematic output is filled with violently surreal images and a hybrid blend of mysticism and religious provocation. His completed films are few in number (only six features to date, two of which he has subsequently disowned), and are typically associated with the youth counterculture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially the “head film” subgenre and the “midnight movie” phenomenon. While canonical directors like Buñuel and Fellini were celebrated darlings of the critical establishment, Jodorowsky (who wrote, directed, scored, and often starred in his personal films) was lurking on the fringes of the film world, bringing his distinctly surreal and esoteric sensibilities to the screen in controversial films like Fando y Lis (1968), El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973). Although these films seem no more dated today than many other “countercultural” films of the same era (e.g. Godard's 1967 film, Weekend), critics have been slow to re-evaluate Jodorowsky's works. One looming reason for this has been the very limited availability of his films: due to long-running ownership disputes, most of them have merely circulated as poor-quality bootlegs distributed by cult movie traders and retailers – but this is beginning to change, as several of Jodorowsky's films are finally receiving an official DVD release as of the time of this writing. Time will tell if cultish overvaluation will stand alongside critical reappraisal as Jodorowsky's films are rediscovered by a new generation, but an examination of his life and ideas is crucial for understanding just what makes his films important.

Alejandro Jodorowsky was born in 1929 to Russian Jewish émigrés in the small coastal mining town of Iquique in the deserts of northern Chile. One of his earliest memories was discrimination emanating from the American colonial influence upon Chile, for Chileans were forbidden to walk on “the beautiful side of the gringo colonies” (1) where American mining industrialists lived prosperously. But Jodorowsky would also face local prejudices wherever he lived in subsequent years due to external perceptions of his nationality. (2)

When he was eight years old, his family relocated to the capital city of Santiago. There he became fascinated with anarchism and eventually attended college for two years, studying psychology and philosophy. Jodorowsky then dropped out and alternately worked as a circus clown, a stage actor and a theatre director, developing strong interests in marionettes and mime through his intense fascination with physical expression. The art of mime allowed Jodorowsky to do away with an actor's reliance on written theatrical texts, instead foregrounding the way that actors themselves produce meaning. By age 23, he had formed his own theatre company with 50 actors, but feeling that he could learn no more in Chile, he abandoned his local success to pursue an education in France. At this time he also severed many ties with his family and this assisted him in his firm repudiation of a specific sense of nationality.

He arrived in Paris in 1953, studying mime with Etienne Decroux before joining the troupe of Decroux's famous pupil, Marcel Marceau. During the next six years, Jodorowsky wrote several of Marceau's more noted routines, such as “The Cage” and “The Mask Maker”, and embarked upon a world tour with Marceau and another member of the company. Upon returning to Paris, Jodorowsky directed Maurice Chevalier's successful music-hall comeback (after the scandal of his having endorsed the Vichy government during World War II), plus a number of plays. In 1957, Jodorowsky directed his first film, a 40-minute filmed mime routine based on Thomas Mann's novella The Transposed Heads (or The Severed Heads), the exotic and absurd story of two young Indian men whose heads are transposed without their knowledge, complicating the Cartesian split between mind and body. Jean Cocteau liked the film so much that he wrote an introduction for it. Viewers today, however, are unable to see the film, for it has been lost; the sole print was apparently taken by actress Ruth Michelly and never returned to the director.

The Severed Heads is noteworthy because it marks Jodorowsky's first attempt to integrate his experience with mime and theatre into film, a project that would continue in each of his subsequent films. There are often scenes of mime in his films, such as the comical begging routines performed by the reborn El Topo in the film of the same name, or the dramatic mother/son routine that takes centre stage in Santa Sangre (1989). A theatrical influence can be seen in the series of images, landscapes and tableaux that compose his films. He often shoots from a stationary (or slowly moving) camera setup, depending upon pantomime and physical expressiveness to convey the force of action. Spoken dialogue tends to be used rather sparsely, often taking the form of aphorisms; while some critics have complained that these aphorisms seem trite and simplistic, their usage suggests an attempt by Jodorowsky to escape the film's written text by compressing a world of meaning into short philosophical declarations.

From France, Jodorowsky then travelled to Mexico, where he eventually directed over 100 plays, including many avant-garde and surrealist plays that were controversial at the time, by such writers as Beckett, Ionesco, Arrabal, Adamov and Strindberg. He also produced original plays during this time and experimented with radical adaptations of pre-existing work, such as staging Strindberg's Dream Play with only two characters. While some of these works were staged for audiences at the National Theatre, others were performed in the Mexican countryside for the lower classes; according to Jodorowsky, it was quite possible to keep these audiences interested in philosophical content by putting two naked women onstage during the performances. (3) In a sense, this staging of transgressive and potentially prurient visuals alongside serious philosophical and artistic themes is indicative of the films that he would make several years later.

During the 1960s, Jodorowsky travelled back and forth between Mexico and Paris. Greatly inspired by surrealism and determined to reinvigorate its artistic movement, Jodorowsky contacted André Breton in Paris, but was dismayed to find that Breton had become very conservative in his old age as surrealism became accepted and incorporated into high culture. While Breton still envisioned a poetic and fantastic movement, Jodorowsky was more influenced by elements of popular youth culture that Breton did not appreciate – such as rock music, science fiction, pornography and comic books – which would all factor into Jodorowsky's later work. Together with absurdist playwright (and later filmmaker) Fernando Arrabal and writer/artist/animator Roland Topor, Jodorowsky founded the “Panic Movement” in 1962 as a way to go beyond surrealism by embracing irrationality, the mysterious and the absurd, emphasising an explosive sexuality, a fearless sense of rebellion, and a collapsing of all time into the present moment. Named after the god Pan (meaning “totality”), the concept of a “Panic” artist also meant someone whose output was “polyvalent”, traversing many different media in order to avoid simple categorisation; artists like Cocteau, Leonardo da Vinci and Pier Paolo Pasolini were inspirations in this sense. Despite their general aesthetic, Jodorowsky maintains that the idea of a “Panic Movement” was largely a tongue-in-cheek joke for its three founders; each person created independently, labelling their own work as “Panic”, while they secretly laughed at serious attempts made by critics and other artists to theorise or follow the invented “movement”. (4)

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Leo Goldsmith: Takashi Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django"

(With a character named "Bloody Benton" you know I will have to see this film)

Once Upon a Time in the East: Takashi Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django"
by Leo Goldsmith


Takashi Miike's career spans some 40 feature films, twenty direct-to-video releases, a dozen or so works for television, and a stage adaptation of "Zatoichi." He's known to popular Western audiences, if at all, for his excruciating 1999 psycho-horror "Audition." And whereas a lot of Miike's work falls into this genre, just as much falls outside of it or pushes its margins.

2001's "The Happiness of the Katakuris" switches from TV-quality drama to lavish musical to claymation within seconds, and more than one of his films splices yakuza action with J-horror. Much of Miike's most interesting films turn on playful genre-mashing, and "Sukiyaki Western Django," as the title suggests, is itself a hot-pot of styles from Orient and Occident, re-appropriating "Yojimbo" back from the Italians and translating the image of Franco Nero's laconic "Django" icon into that of a stubbly Japanese gunslinger.

It should come as no great surprise that the first person we see onscreen in Miike's new film is Quentin Tarantino, lounging in a patently phony Western sunset landscape complete with cardboard Mt. Fuji and hawk-calls and mission bells on the soundtrack -- it all has the flatness of a David Hockney painting, Soon, with an unlikely swiftness, the paunchy American director gymnastically blows away some menacing Japanese heavies (spraying the two-dimensional backdrop with stage blood), before whipping up the movie's titular dish with a snake egg. This prologue (and Tarantino's campy, barely watchable performance) is mercifully brief, but it establishes the mood of the film: loud, jolly, bloodthirsty, and painfully esoteric.

This is, of course, fanboy country -- even Tarantino's character, Ringo, is a reference to Duccio Tessari's spaghetti western character -- and, once underway, its plot dutifully ticks off shots, archetypes, and scenes from a familiar, if quite thorough checklist. An embattled ghost town, two warring tribes between which Django (Hideaki Ito -- here "the gunman") violently insinuates himself, a tragic hooker with a heart of gold (from whom, rather pointlessly, Django receives a noisy off-camera blowjob), a Gatling gun in a coffin: all pile up perfunctorily with enough blood, guns, and gold to keep things reasonably entertaining.

Read the Rest of the Review

Jean Renoir: I Know Where I'm Going

by Jean Renoir
Films in Review (Originally Published in Cahiers du Cinema 1952)

I HAVE BEEN asked about my evolution since LA REGLE DU JEU. I don’t think it is of the slightest importance.

In the first place, no one person makes a film. It is the product of teamwork. There is, naturally, one person who influences the team, and he becomes the animator, the leader, the boss, as workers say.

In the beginning of American film it was often the star who was the prime-mover, and it is quite correct to say “Douglas Fairbanks’ film,” or “Mary Pickford’s film,” because they influenced and inspired the work of everybody.

Sometimes the writer has been the one, but mostly it has been the director. In Europe a film is, before everything else, the work of its director, and of the technical methods his personality causes him to select and employ.

Being a director, I am convinced that I, and persons like me, are like chefs, capable of creating a good dinner.

We cannot do anything without the collaboration of our saucemakers, our bakers, our wine stewards, etc. Nor without the owner of the restaurant.

There are owners of high class restaurants, and of low class ones. The latter always bother their chef with advice - a little more salt, too much tarragon in this chicken. The high class producers - excuse me, restaurant owners - leave their chefs alone. Their talent consists in choosing them judiciously, and in surrounding them with good cooks and helpers, and with the technical equipment and means congenial to their personalities.

If this doesn’t work, there is always the last resource of firing everybody.

In this world, only results count. And my results are the product not only of my work, but of the work of actors, technicians, and laborers. That is why my evolution, by itself, cannot explain the difference between LA REGLE DU JEU and THE RIVER. It is necessary to study the evolution of all the collaborators who helped me to make these two films, and all the films I made between 1939 and 1949.

Nobody develops alone. Even when separated by great distances, people of similar civilizations move approximately together. The world that we know, our civilization, where lie our interests and affections, follows this path.

I spent ten years outside of France. The first time I returned to Paris I sat down with my old friends and we took up our conversation not where it had left off, but where it would have arrived if we had continued seeing each other every day.

I speak, naturally, of my very close friends.

This, by the way, is rather disquieting. I am sure that this is the way it was for me n my return to France. If others feel this way, and if they are a majority, the idea of a national group, which we in France have held since Joan of Arc, becomes of less importance, and of doubtful validity.

We progress by groups, not individually.

There are a thousand ways to create. One can grow potatoes, procreate children, discover a new planet.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Maker's Mark: The Mark of Great Art (Sept 5th)

(Message from Helene Steene)

Dear Friends,

Don't know if you are aware that Makers Mark invited a number of Kentucky artists to come out to the grounds at Loretto and get ideas from what they saw, to then make art that in some form connects to Makers Mark?

Well, I was one of them, and it was a fun challenge, and MM will have a big celebration exhibition at MM on September 5, 6 - 8 (see invitation at The Mark of Great Art) and then the works will be split up into smaller groups and travel to Louisville, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, London and Madrid!

It should be a really interesting exhibition so I wanted to invite you all, if you want to take a drive out into the country and join us. If you click on the invitation site you see Bridget Gasper's email, please RSVP directly to her, so she knows how many are coming. Also, directions at Makers Mark's site.

I will be there will bells on, and look forward to see you too! Let me know if you have any questions.



CALL FOR PEACE HELPERS: “FrancisFest 2008…Making Peace, Mending Seams” (Lexington, KY)

Drama students and adults; Cooperative games facilitators

“FrancisFest 2008…Making Peace, Mending Seams”
ArtsPlace Performance Hall
161 N. Mill Street, Lexington KY
October 5, 2008 (Sunday) 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Eligibility – Middle School to Adult
Deadline for Submission of Application Form – September 22, 2008

Event Description
FrancisFest 2008 is an intergenerational day of activities on the theme of mending what’s broken, an active, peace education event. It has three components: 1) Storytelling - on being aware of mending seams between people, communities, towns, countries; 2) Making peace thru piece-building art - an exhibit of K-12 art made entirely from broken pieces; and 3) Cooperative games for all ages – on learning how fun it is to work and cooperate with one another in order to succeed. The event sponsors are Franciscan Peace Center, Open Ground, Living Arts & Science Center, and Central Kentucky Council for Peace & Justice.

Project Scope for Drama Students
This call encompasses a 15-20 min. performance in an adaptation of a 13th century legend The Taming of the Fierce Wolf of Gubbio by storyteller Hilary Mullany, OSF. Up to twenty people (student/adult mix) are asked to mime the townspeople, Francis, and Lady Jacoba as the story is narrated. One rehearsal at ArtsPlace on Saturday October 4 at 2 p.m. is required. Total time commitment: 4 hours (includes participation in FrancisFest events).

Project Scope for Cooperative Games Facilitators
This call encompasses a 2-part event: learning games and leadership skills thru play (2 to 3 hours), then using what you've learned to help facilitate the game portion of FrancisFest 2008 (1 to 2 hours). Don Boklage of Open Ground Open Ground Info will lead this training, useful in every group setting. Training session will be held on Saturday October 4 (location and time to be announced).

Total time commitment: 3 to 5 hours.

Submission of Application to Franciscan Peace Center due by September 22, 2008.
Mail application to Franciscan Peace Center, 3389 Squire Oak Drive, Lexington KY 40515, or request and submit application by e-mail at If you have any questions, contact Patricia Griffin, Community Liaison, at 859.230.1986

Visit our web page at Franciscan Peace Center

The Bat Segundo Show: Paul Auster

Paul Auster
The Bat Segundo Show
Host: Edward Champion

Subjects Discussed: Starting a novel from a title, the advance titles contained within The Book of Illusions, the working title of The Music of Chance, Mr. Blank, the relationship between Travels in the Scriptorium and Man in the Dark, shorter baroque novels vs. longer naturalistic novels, the use and non-use of quotation marks within speech, the writing history of The Brooklyn Follies, the political nature of ending novels, the 2000 presidential election, parallel worlds, the death of Uri Grossman, didactic novels, the comfort of books, the Auster eye-popping moment, the party scene in The Book of Illusions, violence, reminding the reader that he is in a novel, emotional states revealed through imaginary material, Vermont’s frequent appearance in Auster’s novel, Virginia Blaine as the shared element between Brill and Brick in Man in the Dark, magic, The Invention of Solitude, memorializing memory, Rose Hawthorne, website archives, Auster’s relationship with the Internet, having an email surrogate, Auster’s concern for specific dollar amounts in Man in the Dark and Oracle Night, Hand to Mouth, Auster’s reading habits, the 8-10 contemporary novelists Auster follows closely, being distracted, the intrusive nature of the telephone, diner moments in Auster’s most recent novels, perception and stock situations, summaries of books and films within Auster’s books, and intimate moments in great movies.

To Listen to the Interview

2008 Rosa Goddard International Classic Film Festival (Sept. 4-11)

The 2008 Rosa Goddard International Classic Film Festival at the Kentucky Theater starts in less than two weeks and includes a Lexington premiere and the star turn for a singer who is now a Lexington resident.

The annual festival is financed by a bequest from the late Rosa Goddard, a longtime Kentucky Theatre supporter.

Seats for all showings are $5 at the Kentucky, 214 E. Main St. For more information, call (859) 231-7924.

Here's the lineup:

Sept. 4: If … (1968, United Kingdom). This is a different sort of role for Malcolm McDowell: A rebellious youth leading a violent revolt in Lindsay Anderson's classic. Showtimes 5, 7:20, 9:40 p.m.

Sept. 5: Lust, Caution (Si, jie, 2007, China). Ang Lee's first film since Brokeback Mountain was a World War II espionage thriller that sparked controversy for its explicit sex scenes and some brutal violence. This is the Lexington premiere. 4, 7, 9:50 p.m.

Sept. 6 and 7: The Red Balloon (Le ballon rouge, 1956, France) and White Mane (Crin blanc: Le cheval sauvage, 1953, France). The movies in this double-feature are classic children's films by French director Albert Lamorrise. 1 p.m.

Sept. 6: Diva (1981, France). Lexington resident Wilhelmenia Fernandez starred in Jean-Jacques Beineix's cult classic about the mob, a tape recorder and a soprano who refuses to be recorded. This is a new print. 2:45, 5, 7:30, 9:40 p.m.

Sept. 7: Kagemusha (1980, Japan). In the late 16th century, a thief tries to take the place of a fallen warlord in another Akira Kurosawa classic. This is a newly restored print. 3, 6, 9 p.m.

Sept. 8: Metropolis (1927, Germany). In 1927, Fritz Lang imagined a world still 18 years in our future. 5, 7:20, 9:40 p.m.

Sept. 9: Satyricon (1969, Italy). Federico Fellini's adaptation of Petronius' book can be a weird, perplexing ride. New print. 5, 7:25, 9:45 p.m.

Sept. 10: Never on Sunday (Pote tin Kyriaki, 1960, Greece). In Jules Dassin's film, an American philosopher attempts to redeem a Greek prostitute. 5, 7:30, 9:30 p.m.

Sept. 11: The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups, 1959, France). Francois Truffaut's French New Wave classic looks at a child who turns to crime after being neglected by his parents. New print. 5:30, 7:30, 9:40 p.m.

Emma Goldman: Marriage and Love

Marriage and Love
by Emma Goldman
Audio Anarchy

In the eighteen-nineties and for years thereafter, America reverberated with the name of the 'notorious Anarchist,' feminist, revolutionist and agitator, Emma Goldman. A Russian Jewish immigrant at the age of 17, she moved by her own efforts from seamstress in a clothing factory to internationally known radical lecturer, writer, editor and friend of the oppressed. ...a collection of her remarkably penetrating essays, far in advance of their time, originally published by the Mother Earth press which she founded.

To Listen to the Essay

Stephen L. Carter at the Aspen Ideas Festival: Behind the "Just War Theory"

Behind the "Just War Theory"
Stephen L. Carter at the Aspen Ideas Festival
Word for Word (American Public Media)

War is a major issue in the 2008 presidential election. But Yale University law professor and author Stephen Carter says the U.S. has a bigger problem than just withdrawal or escalation of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says the western theory of "just wars" makes it too easy for a nation to fight wars it should not fight ... and too difficult to fight wars that it should.

Listen to the Speech

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Speaking of Faith: The Buddha in the World

The Buddha in the World
Speaking of Faith (American Public Media)
Host: Krista Tippett

In an intellectual and personal adventure across India and Europe, Afghanistan and America, Pankaj Mishra, an Indian journalist and author of "An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World," pursued the history and the meaning of the Buddha -- not as a religious figure but as a critical social thinker. He came to doubt some of the most basic assumptions about politics and progress that define the modern world.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Watching Theology: Star Trek - The Motion Picture (1979)

Star Trek - The Motion Picture (1979)
by Steve Brown
Watching Theology

God, evolution, the rise of a living machine, theology, humanism and a Vulcan named Spock. It’s all in Robert Wise’s adaptation of Star Trek mythology. On this episode, Joe does a solo take on what might be the real meaning of the players and ideas behind the first feature of television’s most celebrated crew.

To Listen to the Episode

Voices From the 2008 ACLU Conference: Jessica Yee

(I was very impressed by this 22 year old activist's brief interview.)

Jessica Yee is the founder of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network in Toronto. In this podcast, Jessica talks about her activism to protect women's reproductive rights and the rights of Native-Americans.

To Listen to Her Speak (right hand side)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Question about Cult/B-Movies

If you had the opportunity to show a (cult/B-movie) film as a part of a new film series at a cool neighborhood bar... what would you choose?

I'm curious about what your choices would be and you might even influence me to show it in the Al's Bar Cult Film Series.

Bluegrass Community and Technical College Theatre Program: Auditions for Dancing with Dani (Sept 2 and 3)


The BCTC Theatre program will hold auditions for their Fall production DANCING WITH DANI, Sept. 2nd and 3rd from 5-8pm. Auditions will be held on the Leestown Rd Campus in the Student Center.

The auditions are cold reading only. No prepared piece is necessary. All students, faculty and staff are welcome, as are folks from the community at large.
This show is an original piece, and ours will be the premiere production! It is also going to be our Fall entry into the American College Theatre Association. Performance dates are scheduled for early November at the Lexington Downtown Arts Center.

There are roles available for men and women in their 20's - mid 30's.

For more information, contact Theatre coordinator Tim Davis at 246-6672.


Leeds Center for the Arts: The African Queen (Winchester, KY: Sept. 6th)

(One of my all-time favorites--the chemistry and camraderie of these two legendary actors brings this story to life!)

Movies on Main presents

The African Queen (USA: John Huston, 1951: 105 mins)

Saturday, September 6, 2008
2PM and 7PM

Leeds Center for the Arts
• 37 North Main Street • Winchester, KY 40391
(859) 744-6437

Irkaly Areshidze: Democracy and Autocracy in Eurasia--Georgia in Transition

(This lecture focuses on the Rose Revolution of 2003)

Democracy and Autocracy in Eurasia: Georgia in Transition
Irakly Areshidze (Eurasia Political Economy and Public Policy Studies)
UChannel (Apr 25, 2008 at Middlebury College, Rohatyn Center for International Affairs)

To Listen to the Lecture

Speaking of Faith: Einstein's God; Einstein's Ethics

Speaking of Faith (American Public Media)
Host: Krista Tippett

Einstein's God

Part one of this series takes Einstein's science as a starting point for exploring the great physicist's perspective on ideas such as mystery, eternity, and the mind of God.

Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolutely general validity is required — not proven. It is mainly a program, and faith in the possibility of its accomplishment in principle is only founded on partial successes. But hardly anyone could be found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe them to human self-deception. The fact that on the basis of such laws we are able to predict the temporal behavior of phenomena in certain domains with great precision and certainty is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the modern man, even though he may have grasped very little of the contents of those laws.

To Listen/Read

Einstein's Ethics

Part two of this series delves into Einstein's Jewish identity, his passionate engagement around issues of war and race, and modern extensions of his ethical and scientific perspectives.

The world was promised freedom from fear. But, in fact, fear has increased tremendously since the termination of the war. The world was promised freedom from want, but large parts of the world are faced with starvation while others are living in abundance. As far as we the physicists are concerned, we are no politicians. But we know a few things that the politicians do not know. That there is no escape into easy comfort. There is no distance ahead for proceeding little by little and delaying the necessary changes into an indefinite future. The situation calls for a courageous effort, for a radical change in our whole attitude and the entire political content.

To Listen/Read

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Francine Prose: The Politics of Literary Scapegoating

Books and circuses: The politics of literary scapegoating
By Francine Prose


On nearly every occasion when I’ve been invited to speak about both fiction and nonfiction writing, someone has asked my opinion of the scandalous disclosure that James Frey had fabricated sections of his memoir, A Million Little Pieces. I reply that I’m puzzled that people seem more upset by a lie about how long a writer spent in rehab than a lie about whether Saddam Hussein had access to weapons of mass destruction. Inevitably, nervous laughter ripples through the room.

In fact, I couldn’t be more serious. Each time, I find myself wondering: Why isn’t the audience talking to one another, and to me, about how, for the past eight years, our government has deceived us about matters of huge consequence—the war in Iraq, the economy, the environment, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, real estate foreclosures, poverty, unemployment, the handling of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy? The list of falsehoods—and attendant tragedies—goes on. And our response is to tar and feather James Frey and Margaret Seltzer rather than Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzales.

Is the steady barrage of Big Lies so terrifying and numbing that Americans can only respond to the Small Lies? Compare the frenzy of self-analysis and self-castigation with which the publishing industry responded to news of the fabricators to the relatively restrained reaction of our government when faced with the demands of its own citizens: thoughtful publishers of false memoirs have offered to refund the two-figure expenditures of irate consumers—an option currently unavailable to American taxpayers who have been defrauded of billions.

Meanwhile, the pulping machines into which Ms. Seltzer’s publishers pitched her faux-memoir have been fueled by the more unsavory aspects of celebrity culture. Readers of reviews or literary blogs have observed the intensity with which authors are simultaneously admired and despised as liars by profession. It’s something like the ambivalence that sports fans appear to feel about the athletes whose understandable reluctance to tell the world they’ve been shooting up with steroids has been denounced as a threat to the morals of the nation’s youth.

Americans have difficult lives right now. Mortgages have exploded, kids are in Iraq. Who could blame anyone for wanting a good laugh and a satisfying shake of the head over the public shaming of an Eliot Spitzer, or, for that matter, a James Frey or a Margaret Seltzer?

Perhaps I should have explained all this to the young editor who sat beside me at a dinner party, and who—when I claimed I didn’t really care if the writer’s name was Jones or Seltzer, or if her memoir was true—reacted as if I’d said I didn’t care if Chinese-made pharmaceuticals were contaminated with poison. I almost told him, “It’s only a book,” but I thought that would have sounded strange, coming from a writer.

To Read the Entire Review Essay

Thinking Allowed: Violence

Thinking Allowed
Host: Laurie Taylor

SLA Marshall, official US Army historian in the Second World War found that amongst frontline troops only fifteen per cent ever actually shot their weapons. A recent study claims that even when soldiers do fire their weapons they are so overcome with fear and tension that they are likely to fire wildly or miss.

Laurie Taylor is joined by American Sociologist, Professor Randall Collins, author of Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory, to debate the rituals and micro-dynamics of violence and his contention that humans are biologically restrained from committing violent acts against each other.

To Listen to the Episode

Thinking Allowed: Imagination and Suburbia

Imagination and Suburbia
Thinking Allowed
Host: Laurie Taylor

Why is the dream of suburbia so often portrayed as a nightmare? In part two of a series exploring how imagination and reality combine to create the environments in which we live, Laurie Taylor discusses facts and fantasies of suburban life with writer Iain Sinclair and sociologists Paul Barker and Dr Nick Hubble.

To Listen to the Episode

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Matthew Nisbet: What is Framing?; Popular Science vs Framing

"What is Framing?"
by Matthew Nisbet
Science Framing


In this section, I briefly review the research on framing as it applies to understanding the media and its influence on audiences, policymakers, and other societal actors. At the end of this section, I provide a list of recommended sources. In a separate section, I review a generalizable set of frames that appear across science-related policy debates. (For more on both, see Nisbet & Schefuele, 2007)

Packaging reality. The concept of framing turns on what observers have understood for centuries: When it comes to storytelling, communicators can select from a plurality of interpretations, with these preferred meanings filtered by the predispositions of the audience, shaping their judgments and decisions. The earliest formal work on framing traces back four decades to the anthropologist Erving Goffman. In his ethnographic research examining how individuals make sense of their environment and interpersonal interactions, he described frames as "schemata of interpretation" that allow individuals to "locate, perceive, identify, and label" issues, events, and topics. Words, according to Goffman, are like triggers that help individuals negotiate meaning through the lens of existing cultural beliefs and worldviews.

In the 1970s and 1980s, cognitive psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky applied framing in experimental designs to understand risk judgments and consumer choices. The two psychologists discovered that the different ways in which a message is presented or "framed"--apart from the content itself--can result in very different responses, depending on the terminology used to describe the problem or the visual context provided in the message. They concluded in their Nobel Prize-winning research that "perception is reference dependent."

More recently, the linguist George Lakoff has popularized research related to framing by drawing attention to the failures of progressives to effectively communicate their preferred policies, arguing that metaphors related to the family and morality, when activated by language, structure citizens' interpretations of politics.

Framing has also become the topic du jour of political strategists and pundits, serving as a buzzword to describe what is sometimes referred to as either effective communication or what critics decry as "false spin." GOP pollster Frank Luntz is widely credited with figuring out much of the language that has been effective at promoting the preferred policies of conservatives. For example, in a strategy memo on how to downplay the urgency of climate change, Luntz recommended emphasizing repeatedly that the "scientific debate remains open" and that any U.S. policy action would lead to "unfair" economic consequences since countries such as India and China were not also adopting such actions. (The subtitle of Luntz's recent best-selling book, Words that Work, echoes the conclusions of Nobel Prize winners Kahneman and Tversky: "It's not what you say, it's what people hear.")

To Read the Rest of the Essay/Access Sources and View Videos

Popular Science vs. Framing
by Matthew Nisbet
Science Framing

"For the most part, we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see....There is economy in this. For the attempt to see all things freshly and in detail, rather than as types and generalities, is exhausting, and among busy affairs practically out of the question."
--Journalist/philosopher Walter Lippmann, 1922

When it comes to effective public communication in policy debates, nothing fundamentally separates science from other political issues. For example, in the controversies over stem cell research, global warming, and intelligent design, advocates “frame” messages in ways that resonate with public values and popular culture. These tactics play on the perceptual biases of the public, making it easy for citizens to reach decisions and articulate opinions with little or no technical understanding of the underlying issue.

Despite the widespread use of framing tactics, an idealized view of the public still predominates. The assumption is that the best way to communicate with citizens is through science-laden messages: if the public knew more about the technical complexities involved, citizens would be more likely to view issues as scientists do, and controversies would go away.

However, this idealized “popular science” model runs up against the reality of how citizens actually use the news media to reach judgments about public affairs. More than sixty years of research in political science, sociology, and communication shows that citizens are rarely well enough informed, or even motivated, to weigh competing ideas and arguments. Instead, most citizens are “cognitive misers.”

Faced with a daily torrent of news, it is quite reasonable for citizens to employ a form of “low information rationality,” actively using short-cuts such as partisanship and religious identity to make up their minds about otherwise complex debates.

In this respect, science-related issues are no different than any other public affairs topic. Across survey analyses, knowledge only explains a small amount of the variance in public attitudes about controversial science, while value predispositions such as partisanship, religious beliefs, and ideology are stronger influences on opinion.

Whether it is the war in Iraq or the battle over stem cell research, citizens are likely to use their value predispositions as “perceptual screens,” cutting down on their choices about which news stories to pay attention to and which arguments to accept as valid.

Strong “preference gaps” also exist, as citizens not only select among media choices based on ideology or religious views, but also based on their preference, or lack thereof, for science-related content. As a result, in a modern media system suffused with information sources of varying degrees of credibility and value, traditional science coverage only reaches a relatively small audience of science enthusiasts.

To Read the Rest of the Essay


A great resource for keeping up on science/technology issues/policies:

Science Blogs

Power to the Peaceful: Music Conscious Action (San Francisco: September 6th)

(We are planning a gathering of comrades in San Francisco in the Spring, in the meantime I'll be wishing I could go to this event...)

Sci Fi Dimensions: Ken MacLeod

(Another great Scottish SF author interviewed on SFD. The Execution Channel was one of my favorites this year and MacLeod is one of my favorite political SF writers.)

Ken MacLeod
Sc Fi Dimensions
Host: John C. Snider

Interview with the author of The Execution Channel, a near-future alt-history thriller that’s been nominated for the British Science Fiction Awards and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. MacLeod’s latest novel is The Night Sessions, due out in the United Kingdom in August from Orbit. His short story “A Dance Called Armageddon”, appears in John Joseph Adams’ anthology Seeds of Change.

To Listen to the Episode


Ken MacLeod's Website

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Capitalist Pyramid: The Bubble We Live In

(Thanks to Michael Hawkins!)

Glitter And Doom: Tom Waits In Concert

(Thanks to Paul Eugene Fuller Jr. Tom, why couldn't you include us poor folk in KY? Thanks, though, as always, for your music!)

Press Conference for the Tour :)

Glitter And Doom: Tom Waits In Concert
Hear A Stunning Performance, Recorded At Atlanta's Fox Theater
By Robin Hilton

A trip through the world of Tom Waits can be disorienting. His ramshackle story-songs, with their creaky instrumentation and dusty poetry, usually leave listeners with more questions than answers, and his persona outside of his music revolves around a playful but guarded mix of fiction and reality.

To promote his latest tour, Waits offered the media an extended print interview — one he conducted with himself — and a taped press conference, featuring Waits seated at a table of microphones, answering questions amid bursts of flashbulbs and murmurs. Only at the end, as Waits donned a bowler hat and exited, did viewers see that the room was empty and the sound of the press corps was merely a record playing.

Both interviews were filled with more wildly imaginative stories and questionable trivia (was a sunken Japanese freighter really raised with 20 million ping-pong balls?) than actual details of the tour. But that's the allure of Tom Waits: It's hard to know what to believe, but the world he creates is enchanting enough to get lost in.

Here's what we do know: Waits has dubbed his summer 2008 tour "Glitter and Doom." It's a trek through the lower half of the U.S. he describes as "PEHDTSCKJMBA" (pronounced "pess-kuh-JUM-buh), an acronym for each of the tour's stops: Phoenix, El Paso, Houston, Dallas, Tulsa, St. Louis, Columbus, Knoxville, Jacksonville, Mobile, Birmingham and Atlanta.

To Read the Rest of the Intro and Listen to the Concert!

Another Recommended BCTC Course: HUM 220: HUM 220: Historical, Literary and Artistic Perspectives on Peace and War

(From Leon Lane. Course is team taught by Lane (anthropology), Joe Anthony (Literature), Steven White (History), Marcia Freyman (Art) and Michael Benton (Film).)

HUM 220: HUM 220: Historical, Literary and Artistic Perspectives on Peace and War

Introduction to the history of violence and peace movements. Examines the anthropological, political, cultural and technological forces contributing to the frequent occurrence of war throughout history. The history of movements and organizations, both religious and secular, intended to minimize warfare and oppression are explored. Anthropological and historical themes are enhanced and elaborated on through examinations of literature and visual arts.
Sophomore standing or consent of instructor.

This is a timely and valuable course.

Sci Fi Dimensions: Richard K. Morgan

(Morgan's novel Market Forces was one of my favorite reads this year and I look forward to what he can do with the fantasy genre. In this interview he critiques the limiting American warrior mystique, the childish limits of mainstream fantasy, the sexual orientation of the current book's protagonist and discusses his writing style.)

Richard K. Morgan
Sci Fi Dimension
Host: Richard K. Morgan

Interview with Richard K. Morgan, author of the new fantasy novel (his first foray outside of science fiction) The Steel Remains. Richard is best known for his first novel Altered Carbon, a cyberpunk detective-noir thriller that introduced readers to Takeshi Kovacs, a military-trained assassin who lives in a future in which human personalities can be backed-up and downloaded into new bodies. Altered Carbon won the 2003 Philip K. Dick Award. Richard has written two more Takeshi Kovacs adventures (Broken Angels and Woken Furies), as well as the “Road Warrior meets Wall Street” novel Market Forces. Richard’s 2007 novel Black Man (published in the US as Thirteen) just won the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

To Listen to the Interview

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Crazy Quote of the Day: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

"[She] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she's just trying to save the planet. We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet -- we didn't need Nancy Pelosi to do that."

Check out Brainwise's post on this:

The Planet Has Been Saved

World's Greatest Class!!! Michael Benton's ENG 282: International Film Studies course at Bluegrass Community and Technical College

(shameless promotion notice)

OK, I have no evidence to back that overblown statement up, but my students always enjoy the course (see Bluegrass Film Society for the course website and reviews of films by students—on the right side of the website).

ENG 282: International Film Studies (the course)

We only meet once a week and you will save money on gas! The class meets on Tuesday nights on cooper campus from 5-7:45.

Does not require you to purchase a book for the class (that is right—I will be saving you money by making all materials available to you on the Bluegrass Film Society website and you will not have to buy any of those overpriced textbooks)

Counts toward your required humanities credits.

Satisfies your BCTC cross cultural requirement.

Your professor is passionate about the subject and absolutely wants to hear what you know/think.

Is an introduction to cinema as a global phenomenon and how it is one of the most important forms for communicating different cultural perspectives (we will discuss the positive and negative aspects of films popularity and uses).

Students generally get excited about new films opening during the semester and we organize spontaneous (and optional) gatherings to see new films on opening night/week in the theater.

Here are the films the students in the course will be watching (in-class) on the big screen in the main auditorium:

Trainspotting (UK: Danny Boyle, 1996: 92 mins)

City of God (Brazil/France: Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002: 130 mins)

Cautiva (Argentina: Gaston Biraben, 2003: 115 mins)

Moolaadé (Senegal/France/Burkina Faso/Cameroon/Morocco/Tunisia: Ousmane Sembene, 2004: 124 mins)

The Method (Argentina/Spain/Italy: Marcelo Piñeyro, 2005: 115 mins)

Lady Vengeance (South Korea: Chan-wook Park, 2005: 112 mins)

Black Book (Netherlands/Germany/Belgium: Paul Verhoeven, 2006: 145 mins)

Pan’s Labyrinth (Mexico/Spain/USA: Guillermo Del Toro, 2006: 112 mins)

Shortbus (USA: John Cameron Mitchell, 2006: 101 mins)

Golden Door (Italy/France: Emanuele Crialese, 2006: 118 mins)

Children of Men (Japan/UK/USA: Alfonso Cuarón, 2006: 109 mins)

Offside (Iran: Jafar Panahi, 2006: 93 mins)

Triad Election (Hong Kong: Johnnie To, 2006: 92 mins)

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Romania: Christian Mungui, 2007: 113 mins)

The Band’s Visit (Israel/France/USA: Eran Kolirin, 2007: 87 mins)

Jouyeux Noel (France/Germany/UK/Belgium/Romania: Christian Carion, 2005: 116 mins)

If you are curious about these films visit where you can read about them and/or watch trailers.

I have chosen these films to give students an introduction to contemporary international films (and the cultures that produce them) and to develop their interest in films beyond the Hollywood system.

Feel free to ask me questions in the comments and I hope you have a great semester!

Michael Benton

Lexington Free Store (Aug 20)

(Feel free to come by and get some of Danny's excellent produce/herbs and/or donate your own excess food to his stock. Leave a message in the comments if you have questions.)

For anyone swimming in extra produce, I'll be at the Lexington Free Store this wednesday, located at Al's Bar(Limestone/6th) from 4:00ish until we give out (sometime around 5:30, 6). Feel free to drop by and practice your own mercantile skills; conversely, I can pick up extra produce to give away at the store, too.

danny mayer
marketing representative, Lexington Free Store

Salty Dog Blues n Roots Podcast: Old School

(Another great show helping us to live without the saccharine drek they play on American mainstream radio. This one comes from Australia and Salty does a two hour show every week!)

Salty Dog Blues n Roots Podcast

Track List:
** Australia
1. Howlin Wolf (I Asked Her For Water) CD 'The Chess Story'
2. Bo Diddley (I'm A Man) CD 'The Chess Story'
3. Jimmy Rogers (Goin Away Baby) CD 'The Chess Story'
4. Otis Rush (I Can't Quit YOu Baby) CD 'The Essential Collection'
5. Muddy Waters (Still A Fool) CD 'The Chess Story'
6. Junior Wells (Early In The Morning) CD 'Hoodoo Man Blues'
7. Eddie Boyd (Third Degree) CD 'The Chess Story'
8. Buddy Guy N Junior Wells (Messin' With The Kid) CD 'Play The Blues'
9. Elmore James (I Can't Hold Out, Talk To Me Baby) CD 'The Chess Story'
10. John Lee Hooker (Sugar Mama) CD 'The Chess Story'
11. Howlin Wolf (Spoonful) CD 'The Chess Story'
12. Lowell Fulson (Trouble Trouble) CD 'The Chess Story'
13. Sonny Boy Williamson (Ninety Nine) CD 'The Chess Story'
14. Willie Dixon (29 Ways) CD 'The Chess Story'
15. B.B. King (How Blue Can YOu Get) CD 'Greatest Hits'
16. Floyd Jones (Dark Jones) CD 'The Chess Story'
17. Little Walter (You Better Watch Yourself) 'The Chess Story'
18. Howlin Wolf (How Many More Years) CD 'The Chess Story'
19. Lowell Fulson (Reconsider Baby) CD 'The Chess Story'
20. Howlin Wolf (Evil) CD 'The Chess Story'
21. JB Lenoir (Don't You Touch My Head) CD 'The Chess Story'
22. Chuck Berry (Maybellene) CD 'The Chess Story'
23. Albert King (Crosscut Saw) CD 'Born Under A Bad Sign'
24. Freddie King (I'm Tore Down) CD 'Hide Away'
25. Otis Rush (All Your Love) CD 'The Chess Story'
26. John Lee Hooker (One Bourbon, One Scoth, One Beer) CD 'The Real Folk Blues'
27. Buddy Guy (Sweet Little Angel) CD ' '
28. Etta James (I'd Rather Go Blind) CD 'Her Best'
29. Sonny Boy Williamson (Nine Below Zero) CD 'The Chess Story'
30. Floyd Dixon (I'm Ashamed Of Myself) CD 'The Chess Story'
31. Muddy Waters (Trouble No More) CD 'The Chess Story'
32. Muddy Waters (Screamin' N Cryin') CD 'The Chess Story'
33. Muddy Waters (Standin' Around Cryin') CD 'The Chess Story'

To Listen to the Show

Monday, August 18, 2008

RCRD LBL Podcast for 8/13/08

RCRD LBL Podcast (8.13.2008)
Host: Eliott Aronow

Howlies - Dirty Woman
TK Webb & The Visions - Teen Is Still Shaking

The New Year - The Company I Can Get
Mason Proper - Lock and Key

Solid Gold - Who You Gonna Run To?
Tittsworth - WTF (featuring Kid Sister & Pase Rock)

The Death Set - Negative Thinking
Buraka Som Sistema - Yah! feat. Petty (The Count & Sinden Remix)

Lindstrom - The Long Way Home (Prins Thomas Edit)
Lykke Li - Little Bit (Loving Hand Remix)

SunnO))) - It Took The Night To Believe

To Listen to This Episode

Radio Three Sixty: Music for Strange Moments #47

Radio Three Sixty

DJ Darkhorse put together another great set that served as the background for the preparation of a dinner I was cooking tonight (a hearty thanks to the Webbs for sharing their fresh garden produce :)

Episode #47

To the Best of Our Knowledge: The New Abolitionists

The New Abolitionists
To the Best of Our Knowledge

Would you be surprised to know there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history? An estimated 27 million people live in bondage.


Maria Suarez tells the story of the five years she spent as a slave and the twenty three years she spent in prison for a murder she didn't commit. Today, Maria is active with a group called "Free the Slaves." Also, Benjamin Skinnner talks with Anne Strainchamps about his book, "A Crime So Monstrous." Skinner tells the story of how he infiltrated slave markets on five continents from slave quarries in India to child markets in Haiti and says that in Manhattan, you're five hours away from negotiating the sale of another human being in broad daylight.


Journalist Adam Hochschild has written "Bury the Chains" about the anti-slavery movement in Britain two hundred years ago. He says they invented many of the political tools and tactics today's protesters still use. Also, Katrina Browne produced and directed the documentary "Traces of the Trade" in an effort to come to terms with her family's legacy of slave trading. Browne talks with Jim Fleming and we hear excerpts from her film.


Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a visionary economist who founded the micro-credit movement and India's Grameen Bank. Yunus talks with Steve Paulson about what he calls "social business," in which charitable dollars keep working as they would in any other business. His new book is called "Creating a World Without Poverty."

To Listen to the Episode

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Radio West: Valerie Plame Wilson on Fair Game

Valerie Plame Wilson
Radio West (KUER: Salt Lake City, UT)
Host: Doug Fabrizio

A conversation with Valerie Plame Wilson ... about having her cover as a CIA operative blown in the political squabble over the justification for the war in Iraq. ... The disclosure spurred a federal investigation that led to the conviction of ... Vice President [Dick Cheney's] Chief of Staff. Plame Wilson has written a book about her experience called "Fair Game."

To Listen to the Episode

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Living On Earth: Ah, Wilderness; Endangered Again; Invasion of the Invasives; Wireless Science; Amazing Rare Things; Spider Conversations

(This was the first episode I listened to and it is one of my favorites now.)

Living on Earth: Sound Journalism for the Whole Planet

Ah, Wilderness! / Jeff Young
A bill put together by a bipartisan group in Congress, and supported by President Bush, would set aside more wilderness areas nationwide this year than have been protected in the past five years combined. Living on Earth's Washington correspondent Jeff Young reports from one area slated for conservation, the Shawver Run wilderness in Virginia. (6:10)

Endangered Again?
The Bush administration wants to modify the Endangered Species Act. The proposed changes would allow federal agencies to decide for themselves the effects their projects would have on plant and animal species. The revised rules are also intended to prevent the ESA from being used to regulate the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Host Bruce Gellerman talks with Professor Lisa Heinzerling of Georgetown University Law Center about the proposal. (5:30)

Invasion of the Invasives / Jim Williams
Buffelgrass, a non-native grass, is spreading like wildfire through Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona, threatening the park's signature cacti and posing a fire threat to homes near the mountains. Jim Williams of station KUNM reports that scientists and volunteers are whacking away, trying to keep ahead of the relentless plant. (7:30) (7:30)

Wireless Science / Jean Kumagai
It's fast, it's reliable, and it's transforming how scientists do their research. Spectrum Radio's Jean Kumagai reports on a wireless sensor network called HP-WREN. (6:50)

Birding... with an iPod? / Noah Strycker
Birder Noah Strycker (Strick-er) says modern technology can be used - with care - to assist birders in the field. (3:10)

Amazing Rare Things

Naturalist and documentary film- maker Sir David Attenborough talks with host Steve Curwood about his book, "Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery." In the book, Sir Attenborough explores how artists exposed Europeans to nature in the New World, beginning in the 15th century. (13:30)

Hardly Music to Miss Muffet’s Ears / Jeff Rice
Damian Elias of Toronto University uses a laser Doppler vibrometer to record spider conversations. Producer Jeff Rice of the Western Soundscape Archive visited Elias to hear some of the good vibrations coming from the spider world. (3:33)

To Listen to the Episode

Feeling the Heat: The Global Politics of Climate Change

Feeling the Heat: The Global Politics of Climate Change
America Abroad Media (PRI)
Hosts: Ray Suarez and Deborah Amos

The political climate has changed. Republican John McCain agrees with Democrat Barack Obama that the US must play a leading role in cooling down mother earth. But they don’t exactly agree on how to turn down the temperature. And the winner of the election will face stormy skies next year as the world tries to hammer out a successor to the contentious Kyoto accord. Developed and developing countries are facing off over how to create an environmentally and economically friendly way to clear the air. The negotiations threaten to be a carbon copy of the last standoff over who has to reign in their emissions. It’s not easy being green.

Segment 1- Ray Suarez explores the approaches of the two presidential candidates to the threat of climate change

Segment 2- Deborah Amos traces the history of the science and growing public awareness of climate change in the 20th century.

Segment 3- Ray Suarez looks back at the Clinton Administration’s role in the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol.

Segment 4- Deborah Amos takes us to New Delhi to examine the challenges faced by the developing world in adapting to a warming climate.

Guests in this program include:

Jason Grumet, Chair of the Obama campaign’s Environment and Energy Policy Committee

Dr. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Senior Policy Advisor to the McCain campaign

Dr. Robert Stavins, Director of the Environmental Economics Program at Harvard University

Dr. William Antholis, Managing Director of the Brookings Institution.

Dr. Spencer Weart, Director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics

Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, former Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs

Gene Sperling, National Economic Advisor to President Clinton

Congressman James Sensenbrenner, former Chairman of the House Science Committee

Ambassador Raul Estrada Oyuela, Chairman of the Kyoto Conference

Dr. Ashok Khosla, Chairman of the Development Alternatives Group

Anumita Roychowdhury, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Environment

Dr. Leena Srivastava, Executive Director of the Energy and Resource Institute

Nitin Desai, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

To Listen to the Episode

Caroline Ruddle: What Lies Beneath? Distinguishing Humans from Skinjobs

What Lies Beneath? Distinguishing Humans from Skinjobs
by Caroline Ruddle
Open Court Books' Pop Philosophy Podcasts

To Listen to the Episode

Art in an "Ultra-Materialist Society"

Painting by Michael Eppler:

Sourced from the Political Affairs essay Art in an "Ultra-Materialist Society" by Gregory Esteven

Point of Inquiry: Guy P. Harrison 50 Reasons People Give For Believing In A God

Guy P. Harrison - 50 Reasons People Give For Believing In A God
Point of Inquiry

Guy P. Harrison is a graduate of the University of South Florida with degrees in history and anthropology. He currently lives in the Cayman Islands, where he is a columnist and travel writer for a national newspaper. He has won several international awards for his writing and photography.

In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Guy P. Harrison talks about his new book 50 Reasons People Give For Believing In A God, and details such reasons for god-belief as the obviousness of God, "playing it safe," the fear of hell, that belief in gods brings genuine happiness and comforts, and the fact that so many people are religious. He explores similarities between the reasons people give for their belief in Western gods and Eastern gods, and also similarities between the reasons people give for belief in gods and in the paranormal. He calls for a wider understanding of religion in general as an important first step in inculcating skepticism about religion. He argues that the reasons people proffer are often very different than the reasons theologians argue that people should believe. And he offers advice for what he thinks is the best approach for engaging believers on these matters of belief.

To Listen to the Episode

Point of Inquiry: Chris Mooney on The Republican War on Science

Chris Mooney - The Republican War on Science
Point of Inquiry

Chris Mooney, a Washington correspondent for SEED magazine, a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, and a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, focuses on issues at the intersection of science and politics in his reporting. He has contributed to a number of other publications over the last few years including Wired, New Scientist, Slate, Mother Jones, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe, in addition to appearing widely in the media, on shows such as The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR’s Science Friday, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. His blog, called The Intersection, was recipient of the 2005 Science and Technology web award from Scientific American, which noted that “science is lucky to have such a staunch ally in acclaimed journalist Chris Mooney.”

In this interview with DJ Grothe, Chris discusses his first book, The Republican War on Science, hailed as “a landmark in contemporary political reporting” by and a “well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing’s assault on science and scientists” by Scientific American.

Also in this episode, Tom Flynn presents Did You Know? sharing facts and figures on paranormal belief in America and recent growth of religious extremism, Benjamin Radford shares his segment Media Mythmakers, commenting on social myths regarding Barbie Dolls, and in the first of a two part series entitled Investigating Ghosts and Hauntings, Joe Nickell, CSICOP’s senior research fellow and renowned paranormal investigator, details specific investigations of haunted scenes he has conducted.

To Listen to the Episode

Philosophy Bites: Stephen Law on The Problem of Evil

Stephen Law on The Problem of Evil
Philosophy Bites
Host: Nigel Warburton

What is evil? Is it consistent with the existence of a benevolent God? In this interview Stephen Law gives an original take on this traditional philosophical problem.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bob Costas Interview of George Bush at the Beijing Olympics

(In case, like us, you don't have TV hooked up at home, here is the interview. Courtesy of Nate Hinerman.)

The Huffington Post has a good analysis and a longer clip:

Sportscaster Bob Costas Shows Up Political Colleagues In Bush Interview

Neil Young: Let's Impeach the President


Review: CSNY Déjà vu
by Jeffrey M. Anderson


Like "Ohio," Young's 2006 album "Living with War," which includes the incendiary "Let's Impeach the President," was recorded quickly, fresh as the headlines. Young even made the album available for a free listen on the Internet. When it came time to tour, however, it was only appropriate that he team up once again with the old friends who helped him out on "Ohio." Together they take the stage behind a giant, prop microphone draped with a yellow ribbon and perform in front of photographs of hundreds of fallen soldiers, victims of the Iraq war. Directing the new documentary CSNY: Déjà vu under his usual pseudonym, "Bernard Shakey," Young chronicles the tour with as much objectivity as he can manage, allowing negative comments to filter through along with the positive. He includes newspaper reviews of the show (printed on the screen and narrated by actors), which range from glowing to middling; most of them call Young and his gang a bunch of "aging hippies" and "dinosaurs." The movie's main point arrives, however, when the band plays the Deep South: Atlanta, Georgia.

The Atlanta crowd seems fine when Young plays his oldies and hits, but as soon as he launches into "Let's Impeach the President," the crowd goes ballistic. Half the stadium remains seated, while half storms out. Young's camera captures the exiting crowd's reaction. Interestingly, not one person actually responds to the actual content of Young's song. No one ever mentions the President and whether or not he deserves to be impeached. Rather, the anger is aimed at the fact that Young said anything at all. The angry crowd seems to agree that Young did not have the right to broach such a subject. One man suggests that we shouldn't criticize the government because "they're smarter than us." Another girl sums up Young's performance: "it was too political." One interviewer brings up the Dixie Chicks, to which a concertgoer responds: "if it was the Dixie Chicks we wouldn't be here."

Both CSNY: Déjà vu and the 2006 Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up and Sing have that in common: that kind of hysterical, instantaneous mob mentality that disregards rhyme or reason. Certainly Natalie Maines' offhand comment during a London concert was far less formal or incendiary than Young's song, so why were the Chicks lynched and Young let off scot free? Not to mention that, in Shut Up and Sing, Maines has even more controversial things to say, all of which have mostly been ignored. This is clearly a case of "freedom of speech, when it's convenient." It's too bad that Young's film doesn't get a little deeper into this mentality. Instead, the band members spend their time "thinking positive" -- Stephen Stills makes several stops to help campaign for forward-thinking local politicians -- and defending their actions, comparing their traveling show to the troubadours of old, spreading messages across the land through song.

Perhaps ironically, the soldiers who have fought in and returned from Iraq, as well as their families, seem whole-heartedly to support Young and his music. Speaking of that, the music in CSNY: Déjà vu is tops. That's the most interesting thing about Young; despite his brand of loose, grungy, quickly-recorded rock, he's very finicky about sound quality and he has lost none of his edge. Young isn't shy about showing the early, rough stages in the show, when the band members are learning the songs and getting their mojo back, but by the end of the tour, the songs really soar, filled with crunchy guitars and crisp drums. You can accuse these guys of being dinosaurs or hippies, but Young has remained relevant as a musician through five decades, inspiring hoards of younger bands and constantly challenging himself. This is the best kind of Iraq war documentary, the kind that sends a message, but does not ignore the medium.

To Read the Entire Review


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