Saturday, January 31, 2009

Altcountry #46: Drive-by Truckers, the Felice Brothers, the Gougers, John Train, Two Dollar Pistols, Michael Dean Damron, Winston Montgomery, et al

#46: A Delicious Melange
Altcountry (Netherlands)
Host: Hugo Vogel

Drive-by Truckers, the Felice Brothers, the Gougers, John Train, Two Dollar Pistols, Michael Dean Damron, Winston Montgomery, White Duck, the Jimmyriggers and Toni Price

To Listen to the Episode

Milos Stehlik: The Iraq War in Film

The Iraq War In Film
by Milos Stehlik
Worldview (WBEZ: Chicago)


Most documentary filmmakers don’t make films about the war in Iraq to get rich: it’s because they want to tell a story or show a reality that they feel needs urgent telling. This is a reality largely missing from our media-saturated universe. The dirty little secret of television coverage is the severe restrictions on journalists in covering the war in Iraq – first from the compromising concept of being “embedded” with military units, and then, because of the restrictions on movement created by the dangerous situation on the ground. Reporters for the BBC, for example, afraid for their safety, remained in their protected hotel room and gave video cameras to Iraqis, asking them to bring back footage. According to the organization Reporters Without Borders, 222 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of fighting in Iraq in March 2003, two are still missing and 14 are kidnapped

The lack of visceral images, of the terrible human toll that the Iraq war has taken on both the American military and on the civilian population, lead to abstracting the war in Iraq into a bloody conflict in a distant, parallel universe. Yet many of the films offered keys to helping us understand what was happening in Iraq at such enormous human and economic cost. In James Longley’s powerful documentary, Iraq in Fragments, for example, the middle section of the film is a penetrating verite insight into the supporters of radical cleric Moqtada-al-Sadr. Seeing the fanaticism which drives his supporters gave us some understanding of the single-minded, martyrdom-inspired devotion that we are up against in the factionalized country.

The trauma that soldiers and the population of Iraq faces daily was cleverly sanitized by the Bush Administration by censoring any images of dead American soldiers or coffins coming back to America. In an article in a recent New York Review of Books, Sue Halpern writes that just about the only documentation of the terrible injuries suffered by American soldiers in Agfghanistan and Iraq is a manual for surgeons issued by the Office of the Surgeon General called “War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007.” American military censors reportedly tried to ban the book from general circulation by having it refused an ISBN code, which would have limited its commercial sale. A U.S. Army surgeon said that the military was concerned that the graphic images “could be spun politically to show the horrors of war”, as if the horrors of war are a Republican or Democratic issue.

It remained to the brave and undaunted American documentary filmmakers Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill to show the trauma in the Iraqi operating rooms in Bagdad ER¸ and more recently, the emotional loss faced by families of fallen soldiers in their newest film, Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery. Section 60 is where about 10 percent of the casualties from the Afghanistan and Iraq war are buried. Alpert and O’Neill spent months in the cemetery, wining trust of the families, documenting the consequences of the wars...

To Listen-to/Read the Entire Commentary

Worldview: Ari Folman -- Waltz with Bashir

Waltz With Bashir
Worldview (WBEZ: Chicago)

Israeli director Ari Folman was a reservist during Israel’s war with Lebanon in the 1980s. Although involved in the 1982 invasion--for most of his adult life--he blocked out all memories of his experience. The new animated documentary Waltz with Bashir confronts Folman’s forgotten past. In a painstaking process that took years, he taped nine former servicemen and hired animators to interpret their stories.

Ari Folman came to Chicago in December to promote Waltz with Bashir. He told Worldview contributor Milos Stehlik that his film could’ve been written by a veteran of any modern war.

To Listen to the Interview

Robbie Graham and Matthew Alford: The Power Behind the Screen

(Courtesy of David Hudson)

The power behind the screen
Robbie Graham and Matthew Alford
The New Statesman

The output of Hollywood is intrinsically pro-establishment, and to understand why you have to follow the money

Baz Luhrmann's epic film Australia has been criticised by many, and most vociferously by Germaine Greer, for sanitising the country's colonial history. At the same time it has served the purpose of making Australia look like a great place to go on holiday - its release was accompanied by reams of coverage in the travel sections of newspapers and a lavish advertising campaign by the Australian tourist board. This kind of marketing is hardly new - throughout cinematic history, films have served political and social ends. But in order to understand the influences at play in Hollywood today it is still worth asking in more detail: what prompted 20th Century Fox to produce this kind of material? The answer becomes clearer when we learn that the studio's parent company is Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which worked hand in hand throughout the film's production with the Australian government. The arrangement works well for both parties: the government benefits from the increase in tourism, and in turn Murdoch will receive tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates.

This is just one example of how the content of Hollywood movies is determined not only by the demands of the box office and the vision of studio "creatives", but also by those higher up the economic food chain. Indeed, in its cinema power list the Hollywood Reporter placed ­Rupert Murdoch at number one. Steven Spielberg, at number three, was the only director in the top ten.

The economic structure of the film industry is built around the dominant Hollywood studios ("the majors"), each of which is a subsidiary of a much larger corporation. Each studio is therefore not a separate or independent business, but rather just one of a great many sources of revenue in its parent company's wider financial empire. So, just as 20th Century Fox is owned by News Corp, Paramount is a subsidiary of the media conglomerate Viacom. Universal is owned by General Electric/Vivendi, Disney by the Walt Disney Corporation, and so on. These parent companies are huge corporations, and their economic interests are sometimes closely tied to politicised areas, such as the armaments industry. They also depend on governments, which have the power to regulate in their favour and grant them tax breaks.

This is not to say that the content of a studio's films is determined entirely by the political and economic interests of its parent company; studio CEOs typically have considerable leeway to make the pictures they want to make, without any direct interference. But it is important to understand how and why Hollywood studios are tied into these wider corporate interests. At best, such interests contribute to a culture of conservative film-making. At worst, it is certainly not unknown for parent companies to take a conscious and deliberate interest in ­certain films.

To take one example: in 1969, Haskell Wexler - the cinematographer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - had considerable trouble releasing his classic Medium Cool, which riffed on the anti-war protests at the Democrat convention the previous year. According to Wexler, documents he has received under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that on the eve of the film's release, Chicago's mayor and others in the Democratic Party let it be known to Gulf & Western (then the parent company of Paramount) that if Medium Cool was released, certain tax benefits and other perks would be withheld.

In a telephone interview, Wexler told us that Hollywood's business leaders "have no conscience". He explained how this corporate agreement was made discreetly: "Paramount called me and said I needed releases from all the [protesters] in the park, which was impossible to provide. They said if people went to see the movie and left the theatre and did a violent act, then the offices of Paramount could be prosecuted." Although Paramount was obliged to release the film, it successfully pushed for an X ­rating, advertised it feebly, and forbade Wexler from taking it to film festivals. Hardly the way to make a profit on a movie, but certainly the way to protect the broader interests of the parent company.

More recently, the Walt Disney Company tried to withhold Miramax's Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), the Michael Moore blockbuster. Miramax insisted Disney had no right to block it from releasing the film since its budget was well below the level requiring Disney's approval. Disney representatives responded that they could veto any Miramax film if it appeared that its distribution would be counterproductive to the interests of the company. Ari Emanuel, Moore's agent, alleged that Disney's boss Michael Eisner had told him he wanted to back out of the deal due to concerns about political fallout from conservative politicians, especially regarding tax breaks given to Disney properties, including Walt Disney World in Florida (Florida's governor was the then-president's brother, Jeb Bush). Disney denied any such high political ball game, explaining that they were worried about being "dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle" and alienating customers.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Bailout Recipients Use Money to Attack Key Labor Bill; Slavery Defended: The Views of the Old South

(Quoted by Joey Tranchina in a comment on Sam Stein's Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill)

"At the slaveholding South all is peace, quiet, plenty and contentment. We have no mobs, no trade unions, no strikes for higher wages, no armed resistance to the law, but little jealousy of the rich by the poor."

--Virginia plantation master, George Fitzhugh (1806-1881) in "Slavery Defended: the views of the Old South" (Edited by; Eric L. McKitrick, Columbia University)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Roderick Heath: Comparative Analysis of Martin (George Romero: 1977) and Twilight (2008: Catherine Hardwick)

Martin (1977)
Director: George A. Romero

Twilight (2008)
Director: Catherine Hardwicke

By Roderick Heath
Ferdy on Films

To Read the Essay

The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski, 1991)

There are those films that are so powerful that they wash over you like a huge wave holding you down as the currents wrap around your body leaving you gasping for air and exhilirated by the power of the cinema experience. That is what it felt like when I watched Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique and I know I will have to watch it multiple times in order to grasp it fully (it is on the BFS spring schedule). It was almost an erotic experience in that it fully stimulated most of my senses (perhaps smell is the only one left untouched) in a very sensual manner... my best advice is to get this film immediately and do not read anything about the plot (go in blind).

The Double life of Veronique (France/Poland/Norway: Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991: 98 mins)

Weekly Signals: John Lamb Lash author of Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief

John Lamb Lash author of Not in His Image: Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology, and the Future of Belief.
Weekly Signals (KUCI: Irvine, CA)
Hosts: Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar

Basing much of Not in His Image on the Nag Hammadi and other Gnostic writings, John Lamb Lash explains how a little-known messianic sect propelled itself into a dominant world power, systematically wiping out the great Gnostic spiritual teachers, the Druid priests, and the shamanistic healers of Europe and North Africa. They burned libraries and destroyed temples in an attempt to silence the ancient truth-tellers and keep their own secrets. But as Lash reveals, when the truth is the planet Earth it cannot be hidden or destroyed.

Not in His Image delves deeply into the shadows of ancient Gnostic writings to reconstruct the story early Christians tried to scrub from the pages of history, exploring the richness of the ancient European Pagan spirituality—the Pagan Mysteries, the Great Goddess, Gnosis, the myths of Sophia and Gaia—and chronicles the annihilation of this Pagan European culture at the hands of Christianity.

Lash is an exponent of the practice of mythology. He is principal author of the Marion Institute's website, an inquiry into the contemporary meaning of humanity's myths and beliefs, and is author of a number of books, including The Seeker's Handbook, Twins and the Double, The Hero — Manhood and Power, and Quest for the Zodiac.

MP3 link to the Interview and Archive page

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Movie Morlocks: I'm Ready for My Closeup...

I'm Ready for My Closeup...
by Suzidoll
Movie Morlocks (TCM)

The simplest yet most revealing filmmaking technique is the close-up, and yet it is a technique taken for granted because it is so familiar that we don’t notice it. Still, the close-up influences our sympathies and sense of identification with a character, making it a powerful technique. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the impact of the close-up.

It started last week when I researched and wrote about I Want to Live, and I was struck by the number of close-ups of star Susan Hayward’s emotion-filled face. Director Robert Wise made good use of close-ups in the film to reveal what Hayward’s character is feeling and to influence us to sympathize with her. A few days later, I saw the ending of Sunset Boulevard, which ends with faded star Norma Desmond moving toward the camera and reciting her famous line, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.” Then I saw Frost/Nixon over the weekend, which offers some thought-provoking ideas on the power of the close-up.

Frost/Nixon is based on the play by Peter Morgan, who adapted his work for the big screen. He also penned the scripts for The Queen and The Last King of Scotland. All three films revolve around historical figures at crucial moments in their lives, but they also share in common a point about the influence of the media in the construction and circulation of public image.

Frost/Nixon is all about the impact of television and its influence on making or breaking political leaders as well as journalists. In the film, David Frost and Richard Nixon are presented as having much in common, including their understanding of television. Though scorned by network and newspaper journalists as only a talk-show host, Frost bested them when he landed the Nixon interview. He thought that Nixon would make a compelling interview, and he believed he could get something out of Nixon that others couldn’t because he understood the power of the close-up from his talk-show experience. Nixon also knew it, because in the film he complains about his 1960s television debates with Kennedy, convinced that close-ups of the sweat on his upper lip cost him the presidency. But, Nixon did not learn his lesson, because he is tripped up by Frost, goaded into admitting that his actions during Watergate were not legal and that he inflicted damage on the American people. Then the camera lingers on his face as “the reductive power of a close-up” (a phrase used in the film) captures and encapsulates his regret, his downfall, and his realization that his political life is over.

Fictional films also benefit from the power of the close-up, though with different intent than television news or talk shows. Conventionally in films, the close-up produces a sense of intimacy between the viewer and the subject, revealing what a character is really feeling and eliciting our sympathy. Director Ron Howard uses close-ups to this effect throughout the film but in the final sequence, the use of close-ups is masterful. Frost and Nixon are shot in close-up much like a TV interview as the former bombards the latter with questions on Watergate. But, there are deeper layers of meaning in the close-ups. We see the effect of the questions on Nixon’s face as Frost asks them, and we see the impact of the answers on Frost’s face as he listens to the answers. Each knows what is at stake in regard to their futures in this interview, and each knows that only one of them will come out on top. Out of Frost’s mouth are questions about Watergate; on his face is the realization that his future rides on this interview. This is the story of Frost/Nixon, not the interview itself, and it is told through the close-ups. If you were to watch a video of the real interview, none of these other issues would be part of it.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Movie Morlocks: Ever Watchful, Ever Underfoot

Ever watchful, ever underfoot
by RHSmith
Movie Morlocks (TCM)

My kids have been creeping me out lately. They don’t know they’re doing it, they don’t mean to frighten me… and yet they do. And I want to say on the outset that this isn’t going to be one of those “13 Creepiest Kids of Horror Cinema” posts where I run through a tick list of the usual suspects: Damien, Rhoda, Gage, Reagan, Isaac or Joshua. No, those lists are usually the work of young, unmarried, unencumbered 30 somethings for whom the thought of having children is scary enough. I’m fishing deeper waters here in an effort to figure out precisely why the fruit of my loom so often makes my blood run cold.

Part of it has to do with the proximity of innocence to perversity. Kids are figuring it out as they go, pleasing themselves with odd sounds, facial expressions and body contortions - and props play a big part in that. (My daughter Vayda Jane can do 30 minutes with a drinking straw and an inch of milk.) All of our adult entreaties to “Stop doing that!” must make absolutely no sense at all to a 3 year old who has discovered how to entertain and delight herself. (When you’re an adult, that takes an iPod, a Wii and a cocktail of Cialis and St. John’s Wort.) The amused giggle of a kid caught doing something he or she shouldn’t beats for sheer lunacy the most maniacal mad scientist laugh because it’s so pure, so unfettered by psychology, by what our birthing guru called “story” - the encrusting of meaning, association and projection to every action, no matter how simple. Kids are elemental, in-the-moment, and that’s why its’ so easy for us to imagine they’re possessed by forces from beyond or actually evil incarnate. They’re different.

My 20 month-old son Victor spooks me most often these days. He’s a textbook Bad Sleeper, meaning the process of getting him into bed is a workout that’s closer kin to an exorcism (complete with thrashing and spinning and boundless gobbledegook, with occasional spit-up); it also means he is prone to getting up in the middle of the night and wandering. Luckily, I’m a light sleeper and will usually hear him turning the doorknob (squeaky, of course) in his bedroom down the hall. But some nights I don’t hear that and I awaken to a vague impression of someone standing beside me as I lay supine. I’ll open my eyes to discern the dim silhouette of a small human form standing over me with perfectly awful stillness and silent as the grave until the thinnest, hoarsest whisper cracks the quiet with a wispy “Hi.” Ooh, I’m getting chills now just thinking about it. You wouldn’t think one syllable could carry so much Gothic weight but, well, you really have to be there. He got me good the other night, too, when I’d stayed up late writing. I finished up around 1 am, shut off my computer, turned off the lights in the living room and was crossing into the dark, windowless hallway that leads to the bedrooms. Closing the door to the living room behind me and pausing for a moment to let my eyes adjust to the absolute Tell Tale Heart blackness of this short corridor, I was suddenly aware of a dim sliver of blue light creeping in from my right. I turned my head to see Victor’s door open and, back lit from the blue lava lamp we keep in his room as a nightlight, Victor’s perfect little silhouette. And he said nothing. Nothing! He just stood there looking at me. Brrr!

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Weekly Signals: An interview with Wendy Chapkis co-author of Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine

An interview with Wendy Chapkis co-author of Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine.
Weekly Signals (Irvine, CA: KUCI)
Hosts: Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar

Marijuana as medicine has been a politically charged topic in this country for more than three decades. Despite overwhelming public support and growing scientific evidence of its therapeutic effects (relief of the nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer and AIDS, control over seizures or spasticity caused by epilepsy or MS, and relief from chronic and acute pain, to name a few), the drug remains illegal under federal law.

In Dying to Get High, noted sociologist Wendy Chapkis (along with co-author Richard J. Webb) investigates one community of seriously-ill patients fighting the federal government for the right to use physician-recommended marijuana. Based in Santa Cruz, California, the WoMen’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is a unique patient-caregiver cooperative providing marijuana free of charge to mostly terminally ill members. For a brief period in 2004, it even operated the only legal non-governmental medical marijuana garden in the country, protected by the federal courts against the DEA.

Using as a stage this fascinating profile of one remarkable organization, Chapkis tackles the broader, complex history of medical marijuana in America. Through compelling interviews with patients, public officials, law enforcement officers and physicians, Chapkis asks what distinguishes a legitimate patient from an illegitimate pothead," "good" drugs from "bad," medicinal effects from "just getting high." Dying to Get High combines abstract argument and the messier terrain of how people actually live, suffer anddie, and offers a moving account of what is at stake in ongoing debates over the legalization of medical marijuana..

Wendy Chapkis is Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME. She is the author of the award-winning book Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor and Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance.

To Listen to the Interview

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jonathan Rosenbaum: Essential Cinema

(I am just finishing up Essential Cinema. I started it on my Costa Rica trip and read it while preparing my spring film course. The book is loaded with rich essays that explore the "world" of film and art collectively as a wide-ranging, fascinating introduction to the joys of cinephilia. Just as important, for me, is how Rosenbaum demonstrates that understanding film requires a broader knowledge of the world. His critiques are always loaded with references to broader contexts that extend my knowledge and interest in the chosen subject. I highly recommend this book!)

Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons
with Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Chicago Amplified (WBEZ)

Now that DVDs have made countless films that were formerly unavailable accessible to anyone who knows about them and knows where to find them, the task of choosing what movies to see is more complicated as well as more potentially adventurous than it ever was before. This makes the use of canons in general and film lists in particular more important, despite the resistance to canons expressed by many contemporary academics.

In his 2005 collection, Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons, which came out in paperback last year, Jonathan Rosenbaum entered the fray by concluding his book with a chronological list of his 1000 favorite films, which he has subsequently added to in his Afterword to the paperback edition. Discussing recent changes in film culture that have made such lists more popular as well as useful, Rosenbaum also brings up related issues, such as the formation of niche markets, blogs, chatgroups, and new kinds of cine-clubs that have reconfigured cinephilia and filmgoing as a collective as well as a solitary activity, and talks about some of his individual favorites.

To Listen to the Talk

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jonathan Rosenbaum: Revisiting the Godfather

(This is from a special english-edition by the journal De Filmkrant on "slow criticism." Courtesy of David Hudson.)

Revisiting the Godfather
by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Although I vastly prefer Citizen Kane (1941) to The Godfather (1972), one facet of both films that gives me some pause—especially because I believe this facet has something to do with the current and unquestioned status of both movies as towering masterworks, not simply superb entertainments—is their worship of power, including their capacity to view corruption from a corrupt vantage point. Both movies are melancholy and wistful about their conviction that corruption is an inescapable part of American life in general and The American Dream in particular, and maybe I wouldn’t mind this attitude quite so much if its metaphysics weren’t so glib and absolute in its defeatism.

After all, accepting gangsterism along with its built-in denial as essential and inescapable parts of our condition has a lot to do what made the gangsterism/ denial of the Bush era so rampant, everyday, and taken for granted, at least until the possibility of overcoming it was implicitly posed by the Obama campaign. In his book GWTW: The Making of Gone With the Wind—–published the year after The Godather’s release, when some commentators were already touting it as that late 30s blockbuster’s natural successor—Gavin Lambert perhaps said it best: “When the most ruthless level of private enterprise becomes widely taken for granted, a film like The Godfather finds there are no questions left to be asked. Its characters exist in a nightmare which they (and the audience) accept as everyday reality.”

What Citizen Kane has that Orson Welles’ other films lack is the contribution of Herman G. Mankiewicz , whose caustic wit is valued by some for its comforting assurances about the inevitability of corruption. The more innocent and ultimately destabilizing view of corruption shared by Welles’ other films—that is to say, their lack of cynicism—surely has something to do with their failure to be fully assimilated into the American mainstream. For the Pauline Kael who viewed Kane as “kitsch redeemed”, the notion that The Godfather could be viewed as a different kind of kitsch rather than as a noble Shakespearean tragedy is never considered, because there are certain ideological givens about American violence and power, even at their most infantile and unreasoning, that are too serious to be scoffed at, especially when they’re bathed in “Rembrandt” lighting. By contrast, consider all the depictions of violence in such otherwise very different films as Renoir’s The Rules of the Game and Jarmusch’s Dead Man, which refuse the very possibility of violence having any kind of dignity whenever or however it occurs. Mythologies about macho power and the pride of wanton blood-spilling are arguably at the roots of what put George W. Bush twice into office, but this is something we’ve generally allowed ourselves to laugh at only after it’s too late to undo most of the damage.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Weekly Signals: An interview with Michael Haas author of George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes

An interview with Michael Haas author of George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes.
Weekly Signals (KUCI: Irvine, CA)
Hosts: Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar

Eminent jurists, professional legal organizations, and human rights monitors in this country and around the world have declared that President George W. Bush may be prosecuted as a war criminal when he leaves office for his overt and systematic violations of such international law as the Geneva and Hague Conventions and such US law as the War Crimes Act, the Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.

George W. Bush, War Criminal? identifies and documents 269 specific war crimes under US and international law for which President Bush, senior officials and staff in his administration, and military officers under his command are liable to be prosecuted. Haas divides the 269 war crimes of the Bush administration into four classes: 6 war crimes committed in launching a war of aggression; 36 war crimes committed in the conduct of war; 175 war crimes committed in the treatment of prisoners; and 52 war crimes committed in postwar occupations. For each of the 269 war crimes of the Bush administration, Professor Haas gives chapter and verse in precise but non-technical language, including the specific acts deemed to be war crimes, the names of the officials deemed to be war criminals, and the exact language of the international or domestic laws violated by those officials. Haas proceeds to consider the various US, international, and foreign tribunals in which the war crimes of Bush administration defendants may be tried under applicable bodies of law. He evaluates the real-world practicability of bringing cases against Bush and Bush officials in each of the possible venues. Finally, he weighs the legal, political, and humanitarian pros and cons of actually bringing Bush and Bush officials to trial for war crimes.

Michael Haas, has written more than thirty books, most recently International Human Rights: A Comprehensive Introduction (2008). A well-known political scientist, he played a key role in stopping American funding of the Khmer Rouge. His book exposing Singapore's many human rights violations is banned in that authoritarian country.

To Listen to the Interview

Washington Post's Mensa Invitational Contest and Alternative Meanings for Common Words

(Courtesy of Eileen Abel)



1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Belief that one will come back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The subs tance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11 . Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?20And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter whenn they come at you rapidly.

15. A rachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.


1. coffee, n. the person u pon whom one coughs.

2. flabbergasted, adj. appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. abdicate, v. to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. esplanade, v. to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. willy-nilly, adj. impotent.

6. negligent, adj. absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. lymph, v. to walk with a lisp.

8. gargoyle, n. olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. flatulence, n. emergency vehi cle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. balderdash, n. a rapidly receding hairline.

11. testicle, n. a humorous question on an exam.

12. rectitude, n. the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. pokemon , n. a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. oyster, n. a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. the belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. circumvent, n. an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Implacable





: not placable : not capable of being appeased, significantly changed, or mitigated

J. Hoberman: Behold the Man--Steven Soderbergh's Epic Film Biography of Che

Behold the Man: Steven Soderbergh's Epic Film Biography of Che
by J. Hoberman
Virginia Quarterly Review


Premiered amid the hurly-burly of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Soderbergh’s $65 million rumination was characterized by a detached objectivity that might well have been approved by Roberto Rossellini; it displayed a virtuoso sweep that could have been envied by Francis Coppola and claimed a subject that surely fascinated Oliver Stone. The concern for verisimilitude might even have been appreciated by its subject. (Soderbergh’s sources were primary: Guevara’s Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War and Bolivian Diary.)

Che seemed perhaps a great movie and certainly something no less rare—a magnificently uncommercial folly. For who in 2008 could possibly want an American movie on the minutiae of guerrilla warfare? And so, this undertaking adds another puzzlement to Soderbergh’s enigmatic career. Having more or less put US independent film on the map when Sex, Lies, and Videotape won an award at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989, the filmmaker has alternated between accomplished commercial flicks (most successfully Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s 11) and pretentious, scruffy narrative experiments. Soderbergh’s 2000 dope opera Traffic came nearest to reconciling these seemingly antithetic modes. But so, in its way, does Che. The first half, known as The Argentine, has the look of classic Hollywood cinema; the second, The Guerrilla, is more rough-and-ready cinéma vérité.

Many initial viewers were confounded to the degree that Che appeared as a non- or even an anti-biopic. Despite a stellar performance by Benicio Del Toro, who had initiated the project some years ago with Soderbergh as producer and Terrence Malick attached as writer and director, Che presents its subject almost entirely as the protagonist in the context of two specific events. Moreover, the director seemed to keep his distance and reserve his judgment. Skillfully didactic, as well as nervily dialectical, this feel-good/feel-bad combat film thus had less in common with the touchy-feely Motorcycle Diaries than with Peter Watkins’s spare, self-reflexive reconstruction of the Paris Commune, La Commune (Paris, 1871). And, while Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 Battle of Algiers, the most celebrated application of a neo-realist methodology to recent history, might provide another corollary, Soderbergh’s measured formalism—at least at first look—was so pronounced that Che seemed akin to a structuralist extravaganza like Michael Snow’s machine-driven landscape study La Région Centrale.

Since then, Soderbergh has tweaked his movie’s first half in ways that soften its strangeness and blunt its intellectual edge. Most obviously, a number of mock cinéma vérité flash-forwards have been added to The Argentine, enabling the protagonist to address his Anglophone audience with a lightly accented English-language voiceover. Annotating the past with the “present” and tightening the movie’s overall sound/image connections, these inserts do allow for another sort of dialectic, but their presence serves to subtly normalize Soderbergh’s distancing strategy. (Or what was taken to be his strategy. “With all the subtitles, we thought it was Jean-Luc Godard,” a colleague joked.) More crucial is Soderbergh’s shortening of certain choreographed battle scenes and the omission of a five- or six-minute sequence concerning the trial of Lalo Sardiñas which served to demonstrate application of guerrilla justice.

Even so, Che remains a film object—that is, a thing to be experienced. The movie demands to take its time, with both parts taken in at a single sitting. Each half begins with the leisurely contemplation of a map—first Cuba, then Bolivia in the context of Latin America—as if to emphasize the dictatorship of place, rather than the proletariat. Soderbergh’s coolly single-minded meditation on the practice of guerrilla warfare (as well as the creation of militant superstardom and the nature of objective camera work) is at once visceral and intellectual, sumptuous and painful, boldly simplified and massively detailed.

To Read the Entire Essay

Weekly Signals: An interview with Dacher Keltner the author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life

An interview with Dacher Keltner the author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.
Weekly Signals (Irvine, CA)
Hosts: Nathan Callahan and Mike Kaspar

In a new examination of the surprising origins of human goodness, Keltner demonstrates that humans are not hardwired to lead lives that are "nasty, brutish, and short"— we are in fact born to be good. He investigates an old mystery of human evolution: why have we evolved positive emotions like gratitude, amusement, awe, and compassion that promote ethical action and are the fabric of cooperative societies?

By combining stories of scientific discovery, personal narrative, and Eastern philosophy, Keltner illustrates his discussions with more than fifty photographs of human emotions. Born to Be Good is a profound study of how emotion is the key to living the good life and how the path to happiness goes through human emotions that connect people to one another.

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, director of the Greater Good Science Center, and coeditor of Greater Good magazine. His research focuses on pro-social emotions, power, and moral reasoning.

To Listen to the Interview

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Watching Theology: Pinocchio (1940)

Pinocchio (1940)
Watching Theology
Hosts: Joe and Melissa

What do the frontier revival evangelists have in common with pre-War, classic Disney animation? Perhaps a lot more than many of us may have considered. It seems that Pinocchio has more to say about good behavior and the problem of succumbing to the devil's devices - gambling, drinking, smoking, etc. - than many of today's pulpits. But there was a time when the American common religion and the ethics of kiddie culture could be summed up in one simple phrase: "Now, remember… be a good boy. And always let your conscience be your guide."

To Listen to the Episode

Graeme Hobbs: An introduction and conversation with DVD producer Michael Brooke About the Films of Jan Svankmajer

Jan Svankmajer - An introduction and conversation with DVD producer Michael Brooke
Host: Graeme Hobbs
Movie Mail (United Kingdom)

Graeme introduces and discusses the work of Czech animator filmmaker Jan Svankmajer with Michael Brooke, the producer of the BFI's recent 3 disc set of his complete short films. They consider, among other things, Svankmajer's themes, his collaborators, his work in other media, and his enforced breaks from filmmaking.

To Listen to the Conversation

Graeme Hobbs: The Discreet Pleasures of Bunuel's Belle de Jour

The Discreet Pleasures of Bunuel's Belle de Jour
by Graeme Hobbs
Movie Mail (United Kingdom)

Although Luis Bunuel is notorious for the more outrageous scenes in his films, equally as interesting are their craftsmanlike elements - the self-effacing camerawork, their dialogue, their subtle reinforcements of character's situations, their editing and their nicely offhand moments. Here, Graeme looks at Belle de Jour, Bunuel's film of a bored bourgeois housewife finding an outlet for her fantasies through afternoon work in a brothel, with these things in mind.

To Listen to the Episode

International News Coverage in a New Media World: The Decline of the Foreign Correspondent

International News Coverage in a New Media World: The Decline of the Foreign Correspondent
(Dec 10, 2008 at George Washington University)

[A discussion on] the dramatic shift of traditional media away from foreign reporting and the growth of Web-based citizen journalists and the effect on coverage of international news and human rights issues.

- Introduction: D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, Broadcasting Board of Governors

- Moderator: Steve Roberts, Professor of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

- Panelists:

- Loren Jenkins, Foreign Editor, National Public Radio

- Sherry Ricchiardi, Senior Writer, American Journalism Review and Professor, Indiana University School of Journalism

- Patrick Meier, Research Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

- Bob Dietz, Asia Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists

Co-sponsored by the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the GWU Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication in commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

To Listen to the Conversation

Jacques Rupnik: The Empire Strikes Back--American and European Responses to a Resurgent Russia

"The Empire Strikes Back: American and European Responses to a Resurgent Russia"
Jacques Rupnik, director of research at CERI, Sciences-Po, and visiting professor at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium.
(Nov 3, 2008 at Middlebury College, Rohatyn Center for International Affairs)
UChannel (Princeton University)

To Listen to the Lecture

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Provoke Radio: Filmmaker Lisa Jackson on Violence Against Women in the Congo

”Cheaper Than Bullets”: Violence Against Women in the Congo
Filmmaker Lisa Jackson, director of the HBO documentary, The Greatest Silence.
Provoke Radio (Maryland)
Host: Stephen Spahn

We listen to the stories in disbelief. Stories of unspeakable violence and horrific barbarism that come to us from around the world and around the corner. Perhaps the most startling phenomenon is our own disbelief…for these horror stories are nothing new. They come to us in a steady stream day in and day out... century after century. Man’s inhumanity to man bludgeons on relentlessly, yet we are still surprised by it. The fact that we have not altogether become desensitized to brutality offers a sliver of hope, but the harsher reality is that we persist in creating new enemies, new reasons to hate, new ways to inflict pain…and new ways to defile and annihilate both the human body and human spirit. The latest collective nightmare is the one that has been unreeling in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the past ten years where the most horrific violence against women has been carried out as a deliberate strategy in a brutal civil war. It is by far the most mind-numbing, savage sexual violence in history. The stories are nearly impossible to listen to and yet they must be told. Thankfully, HBO filmmaker, Lisa Jackson, is one woman who was brave enough to travel to the Congo in order to give these women a voice and bring their stories to our attention. Little by little the broken but courageous Congolese women opened up to Lisa and shared their sad and harrowing stories, which she presents to us in her documentary, "The Greatest Silence", a film which has helped raise awareness of this terrible war crime and has spurred UN and Congressional action to help. Recently, our producer, Claire Hartman, sat down with Ms. Jackson to discuss the issue of gender violence in the Congo and to learn what’s being done to stem the persecution. That conversation can be heard in this show. A must hear for everyone because it is just one more stark argument against war. As if we needed another.

To Listen to the Episode (1/11/09)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rashomon (Japan: Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

(A related anecdote: Last week when my heat went out I had a serviceman come to my house to fix my furnace and he was doing some work in my movie room--yeah, I'm a geek--where I have my collection of films shelved. That night when I went to pull Rashomon from the shelf to do some work preparing for teaching the film, I noticed it was missing. I had seen it there the day before when I was doing film studies and I could only come to the conclusion that out of all the films on my shelf the worker had decided to take Rashomon. At first I was mad, but then I wondered perhaps this would be a transformative text that might work some magic in his life. I began to reflect on the the transformative effect of the loaned Rashomon text in Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Why should I begrudge this worker his purloined pleasure... I didn't complain to his company and my only hope is that he finds something of value in his new film. Besides, the heat is working again, better than before, I kind of feel it was a good trade ;)

Our library has a copy of Rashomon on reserve at the circulation desk--it is in the ENG 282 section. If you are interested in learning more about the film I would recommend checking out the extras on this criterion edition of the film.

Rashomon (Japan: Akira Kurosawa, 1950)

Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing. This script portrays such human beings—the kind who cannot survive without lies to make them feel they are better people than they really are. Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it is the most difficult to redeem . . . .

--Akira Kurosawa, Something Like an Autobiography

Criterion Collection: Rashomon

Great Directors: Akira Kurosawa (Senses of Cinema)

Clips/Trailers (Google Video)

Japanese film scholar Donald Ritchie's edited collection on Rashomon (Google Books)

Iris Mann: A Kurosawa Celebration, From Many Angles (NPR)

Stephen Prince: Rashomon (Criterion)

Akira Kurosawa on Rashomon

Alexander Sesonske: Rashomon (Criterion)

Roger Ebert: Rashomon (Chicago Sun Times)

The Story that inspired the Film (Google Books)

Donald Ritchie: The Films of Akira Kurosawa

Film Reference: Rashomon Bibliography and Filmography

Akira Kurosawa Clips (Google Video)

British Film Institute: Akira Kurosawa

Great Performances: Akira Kurosawa (Archive of Clips and Texts) (PBS)

Strictly Film School: Akira Kurosawa's Films

Akira Kurosawa: News, Discussion, Community

Kurosawa Biography (Books and Writers)

Gary Morris: Three of Kurosawa's scathing critiques of Japanese society past and present — in beautiful new video transfers (Bright Lights Film Journal)

Akira Kurosawa Foundation

Usagi Johnson: The History of Japanese Cinema (Associated Content)

Kinema Club: Researching Japanese Cinema

Tomohisa Inano: Research on Japanese Cinema

Yoko Ono: History of Japanese Cinema (Japan Cultural Profile)

Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto: Kurosawa and Japanese Film Studies (Google Books)

Matt Taibbi: Someone Take Away Thomas Friedman's Computer Before He Types Another Sentence

(It is good to see this devastating critique of this best-selling charlatan... )

Someone Take Away Thomas Friedman's Computer Before He Types Another Sentence
by Matt Taibbi
Smirking Chimp

When some time ago a friend of mine told me that Thomas Friedman's new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, was going to be a kind of environmentalist clarion call against American consumerism, I almost died laughing.

Beautiful, I thought. Just when you begin to lose faith in America's ability to fall for absolutely anything -- just when you begin to think we Americans as a race might finally outgrow the lovable credulousness that leads us to fork over our credit card numbers to every half-baked TV pitchman hawking a magic dick-enlarging pill, or a way to make millions on the Internet while sitting at home and pounding doughnuts -- along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-'stached resident of a positively obscene 11,400-square-foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism.

Where does a man, who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated, get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy-inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a "Green Revolution"? Well, he'll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian.

I've been unhealthily obsessed with Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about -- in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn't make them up even if you were trying -- and when you tried to actually picture the "illustrative" figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.

Remember Friedman's take on Bush's Iraq policy? "It's OK to throw out your steering wheel," he wrote, "as long as you remember you're driving without one." Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman's analysis of America's foreign policy outlook last May: "The first rule of holes is when you're in one, stop digging. When you're in three, bring a lot of shovels."

First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you're supposed to stop digging when you're in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It's stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen.

Even better was this gem from one of Friedman's latest columns: "The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it's all too familiar. It's the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: 'Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn't we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?' "

There are many serious questions one could ask about this passage, but the one that leaped out at me was this: In the "title" of that long-running play, is it supposed to be the same person asking all three of those questions? If so, does that person suffer from multiple-personality disorder? Because in the first question, he is a neutral/ignorant observer of the Mideast drama; in the second, he sympathizes with the Jews; in the third, he's a radical Muslim. Moreover, after you blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque, is the surrounding hotel still there? Why would anyone build a mosque in a half-blown-up hotel?

Perhaps Friedman should have written the passage like this: "It's the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: 'Who owns this hotel? And why did a person suffering from multiple-personality disorder build a mosque inside it after blowing up the bar and asking if there was a room for the Jews? Why? Because his editor's been drinking rubbing alcohol!' "

To Read the Rest of this Rant

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tool: Schism

Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Researching the Issues

(HUM 121: Ask them to write their "message of peace" for International Peace Day)

Rich Media, Poor Democracy (Inspired by and framework modeled on Robert McChesney’s book and the Media Education Foundation documentary.) Notes/sources for the War and Recession panel discussion at Al's Bar tonight.

Part One: Media Ownership

1) The job of media’s new corporate bosses is to maximize profit for shareholders, not to provide greater choice and diversity for consumers.

Free Press: Who Owns the Media?

Various Charts of Media Ownership (Take Back the Media)

Robbie Graham/Mathhew Alford: The Power Behind the Screen (The New Statesman)

From Media Reform Information Center:

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies. This was greeted with skepticism at the time. When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market. More than 1 in 4 Internet users in the U.S. now log in with AOL Time-Warner, the world's largest media corporation.

In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

Media Matters with Bob McChesney: Deepa Kumar on the limitations of the corporate media system (audio)

2) Although the airwaves belong to the people, government policy has favored private, not public interests.

Free Press

Electronic Frontier Foundation

3) The 1996 Telecommunications Act was passed with very little public debate over how deregulating ownership rules would lead to massive consolidation of these new telecommunication technologies.

Consumer's Union: Lesson from the 1996 Telecommunications Act

Robert McChesney: The FCC's Big Grab--Making Media Monopoly Part of the Constitution (Counterpunch)

Part Two: Journalism and Democracy

1) More and more, the first amendment is being interpreted as a protection for owners and advertisers, and not editors and reporters.

Robert McChesney: The New Theology of the First Amendment (Monthly Review)

Robert McChesney: The New Global Media (The Nation)

Exploring Congessional Conflicts: Levels of First Amendment Protection for Different Media

Google Search "media and first amendment": Big Business Law Firms Protecting Corporate Media Interests Under the Auspices of the First Amendment

Matt Zoller Seitz: Copy Rites--YouTube vs. Kevin B. Lee (The House Next Door)

Philip K. Dick: If You Can Control the Meaning of Words...

2) What Happened to the News
Due to cost cutting and the consolidation of news departments, investigative journalism is on the decline. In its place, news that is high on sensationalism and low on information.

Media Matters

On the Media (NPR/WNYC)

Project Censored: The News That Didn't Make the News (Sonoma State University Sociology Department)and their annual list of the top 25 censored news stories

International News Coverage in a New Media World: The Decline of the Foreign Correspondent

The Flog of War: Media Reliance on Paid Military Experts (On the Media)

2008 Plagiarism/Fabrication Round-Up; Crunks 2008: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections (Regret the Error)


1) Myth of the Liberal Media
There is ample evidence to support the existence of corporate bias and little to suggest the supposed liberal bias of the media. The “myth” is effectively propaganda to silence criticism of those in power. Likewise the call for "objectivity" in journalism (and other forms of documenting history/events) is a smoke screen for silencing the critiques of a dominant conception of reality that benefits those in power.

Free Press: Examining the "Liberal Media" Claim

The Myth of the Liberal Media: The Propaganda Model of the News (Noam Chomsky/Edward Herman/Media Education Foundation video) and another clip here

Eric Alterman: What Liberal Media? (The Nation)

Eric Alterman: Debunking the Myth of a Liberal Media (AlterNet/Center for American Progress)

Jay Rosen: The Dangerous Myth of Journalistic Objectivity (Press Think/NYU School of Journalism)

Jay Rosen: The News about the News (Open Source)

Richard Taflinger: The Myth of Objectivity in Journalism (Washington State University Edward R. Murrow School of Communication)

Jay Davis: Beyond the Myth of Objectivity/How To Analyze a News Story (Center for Media Literacy)

Resources for Studying Propaganda (Sourcewatch)

2) The Fox Guarding the Henhouse
The gradual weakening of the FCC is the ultimate triumph of the commercial media system over the rights and needs of the public.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

House Report Investigates FCC Problems Under Martin (Radio Magazine)

Free Press: FCC Media Ownership Rulings Archive

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Net Neutrality Rulings

Cindy Cohn the Legal Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Fora TV)

3) A Classic Case of Corporate Journalism
The absence of investigative reporting on the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, lack of coverage of the lies in regards to the case to invade Iraq, and the cutting of foreign correspondents is further evidence of the decline of journalism in the age of corporate ownership.

Bill Moyer's Journal: Buying the War (PBS Documentary)

Source Watch

PR Watch

Spin of the Day

International News Coverage in a New Media World: The Decline of the Foreign Correspondent

4) This Ad was Paid for By
Political advertising has taken the place of political campaign coverage—a financial gain for broadcasters, but a loss of information for the public.

Online Communication Studies Resources: Political Advertising (University of Iowa Department of Communication Studies)

The Democracy Project: 30 Second Candidate (PBS)

Mixed Messages: tracking political Advertising (711 ads) (Washington Post)

Political Advertising Resource Center (Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership at the University of Maryland)

Political Advertising Archives and Resources (Glenn W. Richardson Jr. of the Department of Political Science at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania)

5) Hands Off My Mouse
Copyright law has been extended to protect the monopoly power of private interests to keep cultural and intellectual materials out of the public domain.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: Defending Freedom in the Digital World

Cory Doctorow: Content--Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future (Entire Reading of this book available at Internet Archive) and description of the book here

Cory Doctorow: Why I Copyfight (Locus Magazine)

John Perry Barlow: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace (1996)

John Perry Barlow: The Economy of Ideas

James Boyle: The Public Domain--The Enclosing the Commons of the Mind (Internet Archive Audio)

Lawrence Lessig: Free Culture--How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity (Entire Book Online) and more on his Website

U.S. Copyright Office: Copyright Law of the U.S.

Georgia Harper: Copyright Law in the Electronic Environment (Office of General Counsel
University of Texas System)

6) There Are Alternatives
Independent media are a vital alternative to the corporate media system and need our support.

Democracy Now

Robert McChesney/Josh Silver on the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform

Robert McChesey/John Nichols: Platform for Media Reform (Media Alliance)

Free Culture: Students for a Free Culture

Media Education Foundation

Jay Rosen: Citizen Journalism (Professor of Journalism at New York University)

Rising Voices and Global Voices

Independent Media Centers

Media/Communication/Journalism 2008-2009: Archive of Organizations, Resources and Reports (Compiled by Michael Benton, Humanities Professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College)

RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA: Web Sites That Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs

Michael Wesch: A Portal to Media Literacy/Michael Benton: Thinking About 21st Century Multiliteracies

Business/Labor/Economics 2008-2009 (Compiled by Michael Benton, Humanities Professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College)

Peace/Conflict Studies 2008-2009 (Compiled by Michael Benton, Humanities Professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

M (German: Fritz Lang, 1931)

M (Germany: Fritz Lang, 1931) 110 mins

Stanley Kauffman: The Mark of M (Criterion)

Gary Morris: On the Restoration of M (Bright Lights Film Journal)

Cyberroach: Fritz Lang’s M (Fan Appreciation)

M available on Internet Archive

Stephen Hunter: ‘M': Fritz Lang's Dark Masterpiece, Still Shocking After All These Years

Lenin Imports: Fritz Lang’s M

The Film Sufi: Fritz Lang’s M

Linda’s Vintage Movie Page: Fritz Lang’s M

Daniel Shaw: Fritz Lang (Senses of Cinema: Great Directors)

Fritz Lang: Master of Darkness (BFI: British Film Institute)

The Permanent Magic of Fritz Lang (BFI)

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (Kino)

Fritz Lang Film/Video Clips Online (Google Video)

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (Fan Site)

Fan Video Tribute to Metropolis

They Shoot Pictures Don’t They: Fritz Lang archive

Missing scenes from Fritz Lang's Metropolis turn up after 80 years (UK Guardian)

Film Reference: Fritz Lang Filmography/Bibliography

David Hudson: German Expressionism (Green Cine)

Dave Kehr: German Expressionism (NY Times)

Virtualology: German Expressionism

ArtLex: Expressionism

Galerie St. Etienne: Austrian and German Expressionism

Walking a Tightrope: German Expressionist Printmaking, 1904-1928 (Grinnell College)

Christian Saehrendt: "Hottentots in tails"--The turbulent history of "Die Brücke" in Germany

Tim Dirks: Film History of the 1930s (Film Site)

The German Way: Cinema

Kinoeye: Resources on German Film

David Korten: The Speech President Obama Should Deliver… But Won't

The Speech President Obama Should Deliver… But Won't
by David Korten
Yes! Magazine


Fellow Citizens:

My administration came to office with a mandate for bold action at a time when our most powerful economic institutions had clearly failed us. They crippled our economy; burdened governments with debilitating debts; corrupted our political institutions; and threatened the destruction of the natural environment on which our very lives depend.

The failure can be traced directly to an elitist economic ideology that says if government favors the financial interests of the rich to the disregard of all else, everyone will benefit and the nation will prosper. A thirty-year experiment with trickle-down economics that favored the interests of Wall Street speculators over the hardworking people and businesses of Main Street has proved it doesn’t work.

We have no more time or resources to devote to fixing a system based on false values and a discredited ideology. We must now come together to create the institutions of a new economy based on a values-based pragmatism that recognizes a simple truth: If the world is to work for any of us, it must work for all of us.

Corrective action begins with recognition that our economic crisis is, at its core, a moral crisis. Our economic institutions and rules, even the indicators by which we measure economic performance, consistently place financial values ahead of life values.

We have been measuring economic performance against GDP, or gross domestic product, which essentially measures the rate at which money and resources are flowing through the economy. Let us henceforth measure economic performance by the indicators of what we really want: the health and well-being of our children, families, communities, and the natural environment.

Like a healthy ecosystem, a healthy twenty-first-century economy must have strong local roots and maximize the beneficial capture, storage, sharing, and use of local energy, water, and mineral resources. That is what we must seek to achieve, community by community, all across this nation, by unleashing the creative energies of our people and our local governments, businesses, and civic organizations.

Previous administrations favored Wall Street, but the policies of this administration henceforth will favor the people and businesses of Main Street—people who are working to rebuild our local communities, restore the middle class, and bring our natural environment back to health.

* We will strive for local and national food independence by rebuilding our local food systems based on family farms and environmentally friendly farming methods that rebuild the soil, maximize yields per acre, minimize the use of toxic chemicals, and create opportunities for the many young people who are returning to the land.

* We will strive for energy independence by supporting local entrepreneurs who are creating local businesses to retrofit our buildings and develop and apply renewable-energy technologies.

* It is a basic principle of market theory that trade relations between nations should be balanced. So-called free trade agreements have hollowed out our national industrial capacity, mortgaged our future to foreign creditors, and created global financial instability. We will take steps to assure that our future trade relations are balanced and fair as we engage in the difficult but essential work of learning to live within our own means.

* We will rebuild our national infrastructure around a model of walkable, bicycle-friendly communities with efficient public transportation to conserve energy, nurture the relationships of community, and recover our farm and forest lands.

* A strong middle-class society is an American ideal. Our past embodiment of that ideal made us the envy of the world. We will act to restore that ideal by rebalancing the distribution of wealth. Necessary and appropriate steps will be taken to assure access by every person to quality health care, education, and other essential services, and to restore progressive taxation, as well as progressive wage and benefit rules, to protect working people.

* We will seek to create a true ownership society in which all people have the opportunity to own their homes and to have an ownership stake in the enterprise on which their livelihood depends. Our economic policies will favor responsible local ownership of local enterprises by people who have a stake in the health of their local communities and economies. The possibilities include locally owned family businesses, cooperatives, and the many other forms of community- or worker-owned enterprises.

We will act to render Wall Street’s casino-like operations unprofitable. We will impose a transactions tax, require responsible capital ratios, and impose a surcharge on short-term capital gains. We will make it illegal for people and corporations to sell or insure assets that they do not own or in which they do not have a direct material interest.

To Read the Entire Statement

Meriam-Webster Word-of-the-Day: flocculate




Meaning: to aggregate or coalesce into small lumps or loose clusters

Example Sentence:
During fermentation, yeast cells flocculate and either rise to the top or sink to the bottom of the vat.

Media Matters with Bob McChesney: Andrew Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: American Exceptionalism

Andrew Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: American Exceptionalism
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (NPR/WILL/University of Illinois)

Prof. Andrew Bacevich, [is] author most recently of The Limits of Power: American Exceptionalism (2008). Bacevich is Professor of International Relations and History at Boston University. His previous books include American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U. S. Diplomacy (2002), The Imperial Tense: Problems and Prospects of American Empire (2003) (editor), The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005), and The Long War: A New History of US National Security Policy since World War II (2007) (editor).

To Listen to the Conversation

Media Matters with Bob McChesney: Deepa Kumar on the limitations of the corporate media system

Deepa Kumar on the limitations of the corporate media system
Media Matters with Bob McChesney (NPR/WILL/University of Illinois)

Prof Kumar teaches and writes about the limitations of the corporate media system and the ways in which dissenting voices are marginalized from the public sphere. She is a member of the faculty of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers, and the author of Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization, and the UPS Strike.

To Listen to the Conversation

Lexington Music: The Swells and Big Maracas

Easily my favorite live music shows these days:

The intertwined musical collectives of
The Swells
and Big Maracas

Bye, Bye Bush; Budos Band

(Thanks to Yuri for introducing me to BB and Steph for burning me a new copy for Christmas)

My soundtrack to the celebration would be provided by the Budos Band because there are no words to describe our joy, so shut up and dance!

Poe @ 200; Poe's Children

In the celebration of MLK/Civil Disobedience day yesterday and the celebration of Obama Inauguration/Bush exit today I almost forgot that monday was the 200th anniversary of one of my favorite authors, Edgar Allan Poe. Thankfully there is the tireless David Hudson to remind me of what I miss:

Poe @ 200

If you want to see the continuing influence of Poe on contemporary writers I suggest you check out Peter Straub's edited collection Poe's Children

It is my current late night reading. So far, I have read the first two stories: "The Bees" by Dan Chaon which literally terrified me with its story of loss/regret and inevitable return of the repressed and "Cleopatra Brimstone" by Elizabeth Hand a truly creepy, sometimes sexy, then plain freaky tale of metamorphosis/awakening/revenge. These two stories have me eager to tackle the rest of the book (while trying to slowly savor the literary horrors in the tradition of Scheherazade's nightly tales).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Philosophy Bites: Chandran Kukathas on Genocide

Chandran Kukathas on Genocide
Philosophy Bites
Host: Nigel Warburton

Genocide is, at first glance, a straightforward term. We think we know what it is and why it is such an evil. But, as Chandran Kukathas of the London School of Economics argues in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast, perhaps the received definition of this term that emerged following the Second World War needs refinement.

To Listen to the Episode

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Why I Cannot Be Silent"

Why I Cannot Be Silent
By Martin Luther King, Jr.,

[... a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City is a powerful reminder that we should all speak out for peace.]

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath--

America will be!

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

To Read the rest of the speech and watch a video of MLK