Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tell Somebody: Antonia Juhasz - The Tyranny of Oil

Antonia Juhasz - The Tyranny of Oil
Tell Somebody (KKFI: Kansas City)

Juhasz is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies and a senior analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus. She is on the National Advisory Committee of Iraq Veterans Against the War and on the Board of Directors of Coffee Strong. She has taught at the New College of California in the Activism and Social Change Masters Program and as a guest lecturer on U.S. Foreign Policy at the McMaster University Labour Studies Program in a unique educational program with the Canadian Automobile Workers Union.

To Listen to the Episode

The Most Hated Family in America (UK: Geoffrey O'Connor, 2007)

I watched this documentary to find out "why do they protest soldier funerals?"

Just watched the documentary and the most surprising thing was I actually agree with Sean Hannity about something

2:30 in we see their very broad definition of "fag"

All I can say is: "I thank god I am a fag" (playing on Luis Bunuel's famous declaration "I thank god I am an atheist").

How come these parents are not arrested for child abuse?

To watch the 60 minutes documentary: The Most Hated Family in America

Deidre O'Neill and Mike Wayne: Return to Third Cinema: The Case of Listen to Venezuela

"Return to Third Cinema: The Case of Listen to Venezuela."
by Deidre O'Neill and Mike Wayne
Originally published in Film International 8.1 (2010)


The dialectical image

The question that we were confronted with was how do you make a film adequate to a process
as complex, collective and contradictory as a revolution? We felt that many of the dominant
film models were problematic from the point of view of making a revolutionary film.

What mode of consumption a film encourages in the watching audience is a political
question. Audiences are not only learning about a particular topic/content when they
watch a film, there is also a pedagogy involved in how they watch and use the medium of film itself. We wanted our film to be watched in a different way from the dominant models, we wanted to challenge habitual ways of looking and seeing and encourage the audience to critically decode images and sounds. A revolutionary film is one that gives agency back to the audience because it opens a space to question taken-for-granted models and values. We do
not know whether we succeeded in this but that was the intention.

For inspiration we looked to the traditions of radical cinema. Sergei Eisenstein’s theories of revolutionary cinema came out of a context of immense social changes in the first years after the Russian revolution and the overthrow of the centuries-old Tsarist regime. In this context Eisenstein tried to develop a theory of film form that was congruent with a period of social upheaval and change. Eisenstein developed a theory of editing that stressed how editing stirs up and agitates the spectator’s mind, conceiving each cut as a ‘shock’ or stimulus at the level of rhythm, tone, composition and juxtaposition. Eisenstein’s other ambition was to bring together the sensuous/emotional impact of the image with an intellectual and conceptual dimension to expand the spectator’s consciousness of social relations. This required rejecting the linear, continuity editing then becoming dominant in Hollywood.

Eisenstein’s fellow compatriot film-maker Dziga Vertov stressed the space between shots
as the moment where the spectator’s activity sets to work, making sense of the relationships
between the cuts or in the mental ‘space’ between sound and image.

Inspired by left cultural practitioners, the philosopher Walter Benjamin coined the phrase
‘the dialectical image’ to identify a distinctive revolutionary approach to social and historical reality. The dialectical image interrupts naturalized modes of seeing and hearing, it interrupts linear conceptions of history or narrative. The dialectical image has the potential to awaken us to the disjunctures and contradictions of social life. Awareness of disjuncture at the level of film form can begin a process of questioning and decoding representations. The dialectical image tries to enable a cognitive shift in the
viewer; it begins a process that starts with the film but can be applied beyond the film to social relations generally.

To Read the Entire Essay

On the Media: Free Speech Trumped By National Security

Free Speech Trumped By National Security
On the Media (NPR)

Cash, arms, ammunition – all would understandably rank as “material support” under the federal law prohibiting Americans from aiding foreign terrorist groups. But what about speech? This week the Supreme Court ruled that anyone giving advice to terrorists – even advice motivated by peace – can be prosecuted. The New York Times’ legal reporter Adam Liptak explains.

To Listen to the Episode

Trey Kay: The Great Textbook War

The Great Textbook War
Studio 360

In 1974, during the most turbulent schoolbook boycott in U.S. history, schools were bombed and buses hit with sniper fire in Kanawha County, West Virginia because local community members objected to works by authors like Eldridge Cleaver and Allen Ginsberg. Studio 360's Trey Kay looks into the literature that triggered it all.

To Listen to the Episode and to Listen to Kay's Entire Documentary

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Juliana Barbassa: Immigrant farm workers' challenge -- Take our jobs

Immigrant farm workers' challenge: Take our jobs
By JULIANA BARBASSA, Associated Press Writer
Yahoo News

SAN FRANCISCO – In a tongue-in-cheek call for immigration reform, farm workers are teaming up with comedian Stephen Colbert to challenge unemployed Americans: Come on, take our jobs.

Farm workers are tired of being blamed by politicians and anti-immigrant activists for taking work that should go to Americans and dragging down the economy, said Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers of America.

So the group is encouraging the unemployed — and any Washington pundits or anti-immigrant activists who want to join them — to apply for the some of thousands of agricultural jobs being posted with state agencies as harvest season begins.

All applicants need to do is fill out an online form under the banner "I want to be a farm worker" at Take Our Jobs, and experienced field hands will train them and connect them to farms.

According to the Labor Department, three out of four farm workers were born abroad, and more than half are illegal immigrants.

Proponents of tougher immigration laws have argued that farmers have become used to cheap labor and don't want to raise wages enough to draw in other workers.

Those who have done the job have some words of advice for applicants: First, dress appropriately.

During summer, when the harvest of fruits and vegetables is in full swing in California's Central Valley, temperatures hover in the triple digits. Heat exhaustion is one of the reasons farm labor consistently makes the Bureau of Labor Statistics' top ten list of the nation's most dangerous jobs.

Second, expect long days. Growers have a small window to pick fruit before it is overripe.

And don't count on a big paycheck. Farm workers are excluded from federal overtime provisions, and small farms don't even have to pay the minimum wage. Fifteen states don't require farm labor to be covered by workers compensation laws.

Any takers?

To Read the Rest of the Article

Paul Steet & Anthony Dimaggio: What "Populist Uprising?": Part 1 -- Facts and Reflections on Race, Class, and the Tea Party "Movement"

What "Populist Uprising?": Part 1 -- Facts and Reflections on Race, Class, and the Tea Party "Movement"
by Paul Street and Anthony DiMaggio
Monthly Review Press


Who Are the Tea Partyers?

There is much to appreciate in Chomsky and Rovics' reflections. Reflecting shared subordination to the same "unelected dictatorship of money" that controls the Republicans and much else in U.S. political culture, the corporate-neoliberal Democrats (whose current standard bearer Barack Obama was rightly anointed as "the King of Corporate subsidies" by the liberal political scientist Thomas B. Edsall last year) are deeply complicit in the state-capitalist "shafting" of the American working class. Reflexively blaming the nation's economic problems and related social disparities on the "failed policies of the Republicans," top Democrats refuse to tell the truth about the richly bipartisan nature of the policies and practices -- corporate globalization, "free trade," financial de-regulation, overwork, de-pensioning and other forms of benefits roll back, the attack on public family cash assistance, and a relentless employer assault on unions and more -- through which the economic elite has waged top-down class warfare on American workers in recent decades. The Democratic Party most certainly is, as Rovics writes, "a hopelessly corrupt institution led by people who constantly say one thing and do another."

There is a chilling and dangerous anger and activism gap on what passes for a Left in the U.S. today. There is indeed widespread legitimate popular and populist anger (what the dominant corporate media likes to disparage as backward and dysfunctional "populist rage") across the nation -- anger that needs to be understood, harnessed, and channeled in egalitarian and anti-imperial ways by genuinely progressive and democratic activists. On the right, of course, there is no shortage of high-wattage demagogues (Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, and the rest of the nation's still powerful right-wing noise machine) ready to appeal with crazy but forthright and angry answers for anxious and oppressed people with, yes, real grievances.

If the United States' "so-called progressives" (yes) can't arise from their significantly Obama-induced lethargy to build substantive anti-elitist and genuinely grassroots alternatives to the current reigning corporate managed fake democracy, then the prospects for desperately needed progressive change in the world's most powerful nation are going to be dim indeed. In a nation where the top percent owns more than a third of the nation's wealth, the bottom 50 percent owns 2.5 percent and the bipartisan power elite distributes ever more wealth and power upward while waging vastly expensive and criminal wars abroad and wrecking livable ecology the world over, the old bumper sticker adage is most certainly correct: "If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention."

"The Left" should naturally try to influence and organize everyone it can. Converts from the right and from all classes are welcome (we could certainly use some of the super-rich's surplus capital to help build our currently weak movements). There's always a few (or more) potential allies stuck on the wrong side of the political divide.

The CBS-New York Times Findings: Privileged White Hypocrites

Still, what about the "Tea Party" people? Do they really come from particularly aggrieved and working-class backgrounds? Are we really seeing legitimately angry working-class Americans being steered into the right by clever right manipulators in accord with at least one key aspect of the famous "Tom Frank Kansas thesis"? Is the "Tea Party thing" really rooted in "the people who ought to" -- or even could -- "be organized by the Left"? Are these "Tea Party" people really motivated primarily by economic issues and problems and just slightly by concerns and sentiments of race, gender, and religion? Are their grievances really all that legitimate and potentially progressive? Last but not least, are they really coalesced into anything that deserves to be considered a "movement," much less a "populist uprising" (of any sort)?

Based on recently released national data generated by CBS and the New York Times and our own regionally specific (Midwestern) research and observation of the "Tea Party" people, our answers to each of these questions is a resounding NO. In saying this we wish to add that Chomsky (by far and away the leading thinker among all the authorities quoted above) was speaking informally and hedged his observations with two important qualifications: (i) "they [the tea-party people] are a mixed crowd" and (ii): "I haven't seen a study" of the social composition and world view(s) of the tea-party people. We note also that Chomsky suggested a far better perspective on the Tea Party crowd and its political implications in his reflections on the right-wing Republican Scott Brown"s victory over the establishment Democrat Marcia Coakley in the open seat election for the critical U.S. Senate post formerly held by Teddy Kennedy in "liberal" Massachusetts. As Chomsky observed, citing the findings of Boston Globe reporter Brian Mooney, Brown won mainly in the more affluent Massachusetts suburbs where voter turnout was quite high. In the more strongly Democratic urban areas, the turnout was much lower, reflecting Obama and the corporate Democrats success in disillusioning and therefore demobilizing the party's historical working-class and minority constituents, thereby dooming the candidacy of Democrat Martha Coakley.

That insight goes much closer to what we consider the real heart of the problem. The angry Tea Party right is actually quite affluent, suburban, white, male, older, and religious. Despite vociferous denials from its members, racism remains endemic within the group. It is not particularly working-class and does not generally represent people who have been seduced over from the Democrats' corporatism. "The Left's" slumber and quiescence is not so much causing an angry working-class exodus to FOX News, the Republican Party, and the Tea Party "movement" as it is simply depressing, discouraging, demobilizing, standing down, and wasting popular and working-class energy and thereby leaving the authoritarian sentiments of the in fact ugly and plutocratic, arch-nationalist and racist and patriarchal right dangerously unchallenged.

Who are the Tea Party people? Angry though they may be, these right-wing "populists" hardly come from disadvantaged and working-class sections of the U.S. populace. According to a recent (April 5-April 12, 2010) CBS and New York Times poll of 1,580 persons among the 18 percent of Americans who call themselves Tea Party supporters, they are "wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class." The survey finds that 75 percent of them have college educations; 76 percent enjoy household incomes above $50,000 (including a fifth of them making more than $100,000); 78 percent describe their financial situations as "good" or "fairly good;" 65 percent of them identify as either middle or middle upper class; 59 percent are men; 75 percent are 45 or older; and 89 percent are white. Consistent with these relatively privileged demographics, 54 percent are open supporters of the Republican Party; 66 percent of them (compared to just 28 percent of Americans) either usually or always vote Republican; and 72 percent describe themselves as "conservative." Fully 57 percent of them (compared to just 27 percent of the U.S. populace as a whole) report having a "favorable" view of George W. Bush); 66 percent (compared to just 30 of the populace) hold a favorable view of Sarah Palin; and just 6 percent of them (compared to 39 percent of Americans) think that the Bush administration is the primary cause of the current federal budget deficit.

To Read the Entire Essay

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chico Fellini: Give It to Me

Smashing Pumpkins: Fuck You (An Ode to No One)

Steven Erlanger: Racial Tinge Stains World Cup Exit in France

Racial Tinge Stains World Cup Exit in France
The New York Times

After France was booted from this year’s World Cup on Tuesday without winning a match — amid scenes of selfishness, indifference and indiscipline — the French news media piled on about the humiliation to the country and the misbehavior of its players. There were calls for a complete restructuring of the French team: its management, its method for choosing players, its training.

But there is a more troubling aspect to the reaction to the defeat, which has focused on lack of patriotism, shared values and national honor on a team with many members who are black or brown and descended from immigrants.

The philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who has often criticized the failures of French assimilation, compared the players to youths rioting in the banlieues, France’s suburban ghettos. “We now have proof that the French team is not a team at all, but a gang of hooligans that knows only the morals of the mafia,” he said in a radio interview.

While most politicians have talked carefully of values and patriotism, rather than immigration and race, some legislators blasted the players as “scum,” “little troublemakers” and “guys with chickpeas in their heads instead of a brain,” according to news reports.

Fadela Amara, the junior minister for the racially charged suburbs who was born to Algerian parents, warned on Tuesday that the reaction to the team’s loss had become racially charged.

“There is a tendency to ethnicize what has happened,” she told a gathering of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing party, according to news reports. “Everyone condemns the lower-class neighborhoods. People doubt that those of immigrant backgrounds are capable of respecting the nation.”

She criticized Mr. Sarkozy’s handling of a debate on “national identity,” warning that “all democrats and all republicans will be lost” in this ethnically tinged criticism about Les Bleus, the French team. “We’re building a highway for the National Front,” she said, in a reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen.

To Read the Rest of the Article

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard: Final Horrors

Nicola Marzano: The Art of Hunger -- Re-Defining Third Cinema

The Art of Hunger: Re-Defining Third Cinema

This article tries to address established notions of Third Cinema theory and its filmmakers from developing and post-colonial nations. The Third Cinema movement called for a politicized
film-making practice in Africa, Asia and Latin America, since its first appearance during the 60’s and 70’s, taking on board issues of race, class, religion, and national integrity.

The films investigated in this paper, from directors like Sembène, Getino, Solanas and Guzman, are amongst the most culturally significant and politically sophisticated from this movement and denote the adoption of an independent, often oppositional, stance towards
commercial genres and mainstream cinema.

Third Cinema has posed – and continues to pose – difficult and challenging questions. These questions, then, are crucial to this article, an article that focuses on Third Cinema in an inclusive fashion, studying films from Argentina, Chile, Senegal, and even England. Suggesting new methodologies and subtle refinements of existing ones, this article aims at rereading the entire phenomenon of film-making in a fast-vanishing 'Third World'.

Coming to terms with Third Cinema

There is an endless debate about Third Cinema and its strategies in offering valuable tools for documenting social reality. From the 70’s onwards, appreciation of its value and aesthetics has been unfolded through controversial approaches and different views on this radical form of cinema.

The idea of Third Cinema was conceived in the 1960s as a set of radical manifestos and low-budget experimental movies by a group of Latin American filmmakers, who defined a ’cinema of opposition’ to Hollywood and European models. Possibly, this new form of expression came from three different areas of the world: Asia, Africa, and Latin America. At the time these three zones were labelled ‘Third World’ (sometimes they, or at least some of them, still are).

Even though scholars like Willemen explained how the notion of Third Cinema was most emphatically not Third World Cinema, these two concepts have often been confused either intentionally or accidentally (Willemen 1991: 3).

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Keith Gessen: Dystopia

Dystopia: Is it time for dystopian novelists to end the reign of the free-market idealists?
by Keith Gessen

About halfway through the Putin presidency, a funny thing started happening to Russian novelists: They all started writing dystopias. In 2006, Vladimir Sorokin, the legendary deconstructionist novelist, published a traditional dystopian satire about the secret services, A Day in the Life of an Oprichnik; that same year, the literary novelist Olga Slavnikova won the Russian Booker with 2017, and the prodigiously prolific and overweight man of letters Dmitry Bykov published ZhD, set in a future where Russia is at war with a Western force called the ZhDs, who are winning because of their discovery of "phlogiston," a remarkable substance that has replaced oil as the West's fuel of choice and rendered Russia nearly obsolete.

This strange literary outburst was related, I think, to the political stagnation of the Putin years. That he was bringing back authoritarianism in some form no one doubted; but in just what form, and how brutally, how totally, it was hard to tell. The present seemed to make no impression. A novelist who described this present would at some level simply be wrong. As far as the eye could see, nothing was happening. In order to create a meaning, in order to make sense of this present, you had to project current tendencies some years into the future.

Looking at American fiction of the same time, you see something like the exact opposite phenomenon. Instead of books looking to the future to understand the present, there were big counterhistorical novels: Michael Chabon on Jews exiled to Alaska, Philip Roth on the election of the anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh to the presidency. Nathan Englander, who grew up on Long Island, published a novel about Jews under Argentinean fascism, and Junot Díaz, who grew up in New Jersey, published one about the Dominican Republic. This, too, in its own way, was strange. If the efflorescence of historical-trauma novels in the mid- to late 1990s in the United States could be dismissed simply as the guilt-ridden scribblings of a prosperous, self-satisfied nation that didn't think it had anything else to trouble itself over, these new-millennium histories and counterhistories were something different.

American society, like Russian society, may have been stagnant, but it was no longer smug or self-satisfied. Indeed, it was stunned. No one was prepared for the terrorist attacks of September 11, but even less were American liberals prepared for the speed and agility with which the neocons turned the attacks to the service of their old agenda. The counterfactual histories were an escape from this, or a form of fantasy, or an attempt to determine just what had gone wrong.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Skepchick: Is my Vuvulzela too big?

Is my Vuvulzela too big?
by Bug Girl

Last week I happened to see this post at one of my favorite blogs, Sociological Images. They were discussing labioplasty, a surgical procedure that “trims” the labia so that they are smaller. This procedure has been increasing in frequency–which somewhat boggles my mind. Keeping extremely sharp knives away from my girl goolies is something that I strive for.

The question asked by this investigative report was: “Are rules about what genitalia it’s acceptable to show in soft porn driving a perception that small labia are “normal”? You can’t show protruding labia–which swell when you’re excited, BTW–and still have it be softcore.

“The only acceptable vagina as far as the Classification Board is concerned is one that is ‘neat and tidy’ in their eyes. They basically consider the labia minora “too offensive” for soft core porn.”

The thing that struck me when watching this video (well, it struck me after I was finally able to unclench my legs and come out from under my desk) was how often the word “untidy” was used to describe a normal vulva. Untidy?? Really?

Apparently women are forgetting that all parts of our bodies must be dainty and restrained at all times. Even the sexual parts. When you clean your kitchen and vacuum up the carpet, don’t forget to put your crotch in order too!!

To Read the Rest of the Post

Jim Hightower: Time to Take on Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Screamers, and Their Corporate Masters With Real Populism

Time to Take on Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Screamers, and Their Corporate Masters With Real Populism
By Jim Hightower

If a political pollster came to my door and asked whether I consider myself a conservative or a liberal, I'd answer, "No."

Not to be cute--I have a bit of both in me--but because, like most Americans, my beliefs can't be squeezed into either of the tidy little boxes that the establishment provides.

Also, most of the big issues that our country faces defy right-left categorization. Take conservatism. It's a doctrine that classically embodies caution and...well, conservation. Yet the gushing and spreading Gulf Coast oil disaster was caused by people who proudly identify themselves as conservatives--including top executives of BP, Halliburton, and Transocean, as well as the top regulatory officials involved. However, they're not conservatives, they're anything-goes corporatists. Likewise, the five Supreme Court justices who recently enthroned corporate money over democracy (Lowdown, March 2010) are routinely labeled by the media as "conservative"--but their reckless rulings destroy our democratic values, rather than conserve them. Again, corporatists all.

As I've rambled through life, I've observed that the true political spectrum in our society does not range from right to left, but from top to bottom. This is how America's economic and political systems really shake out, with each of us located somewhere up or down that spectrum, mostly down. Right to left is political theory; top to bottom is the reality we actually experience in our lives every day--and the vast majority of Americans know that they're not even within shouting distance of the moneyed powers that rule from the top of both systems, whether those elites call themselves conservatives or liberals.

For me, the "ism" that best encompasses and addresses this reality is populism. What is it? Essentially, it's the continuation of America's democratic revolution. It encompasses and extends the creation of a government that is us. Instead of a "trickle down" approach to public policy, populism is solidly grounded in a "percolate up" philosophy that springs directly from America's founding principle of the Common Good.

Few people today call themselves populists, but I think most are. I'm not talking about the recent political outbursts by confused, used, and abused teabag ranters who've been organized by corporate front groups to spread a hatred of government. Rather, I mean the millions of ordinary Americans in every state who're battling the real power that's running roughshod over us: out-of-control corporations. With their oceans of money and their hired armies of lobbyists, lawyers, economists, consultants, and PR agents, these self-serving, autocratic entities operate from faraway executive suites and Washington backrooms to rig the economic and governmental rules so that they capture more and more of America's money and power.

The superwealthy speculators and executives who own and run these far-flung, private empires don't live in our zip codes, but their power reaches into all of our lives. During the past 30 years or so, they have quietly succeeded in untethering their ilk from our country's quaint notion that we're all in this together. They've elevated their private interests above the public interest and entrenched themselves as the preeminent decision makers over our economy, environment, and media--and our government. They pull the strings.

You can shout yourself red-faced at Congress critters you don't like and demand a government so small it'd fit in the back room of Billy Bob's Bait Shop & Sushi Stand--but you won't be touching the corporate and financial powers behind the throne. In fact, weak government is the political wet dream of corporate chieftains, which is why they're so ecstatic to have the Tea Party out front for them. But the real issue isn't small government; it's good government. (Can I get an amen from Gulf Coast fishing families on that!?)

This is where populists come in. You wouldn't know it from the corporate media, but in just about every town or city in our land you can find some groups or coalitions that, instead of merely shouting at politicians, have come together to find their way around, over, or through the blockage that big money has put in the way of their democratic aspirations. Also, in the process of organizing, strategizing, and mobilizing, these groups are building relationships and community, creating something positive from a negative.

This is the historic, truly democratic, grassroots populism of workaday folks who strive (and, more often than not, succeed) to empower themselves to take charge economically as well as politically.

With the rebellious spirit and sense of hope that have defined America from the start, these populists are directly challenging the plutocratic order that reigns over us. This populism is unabashedly a class movement--one that seeks not merely to break the iron grip that centralized corporate power has on our country, but also to build cooperative democratic structures so that ordinary people--not moneyed interests--define and control our country's economic and political possibilities.

Reclaim Populism

It's necessary to restate the solid principles of populism and reassert its true spirit because both are now being subverted and severely perverted by corporate manipulators and a careless media establishment. To these debasers of the language, any politicos or pundits who tap into any level of popular anger (toward Obama, liberals, the IRS, poor people, unions, gays, immigrants, Hollywood, community organizers, environmentalists, et al.) get a peel-off "populist" label slapped onto their lapels--even when their populist pose is funded by and operates as a front for one or another corporate interest. That's not populism; it's rank hucksterism, disguising plutocrats as champions of the people.

Witness Sarah Palin, whose political flowering was induced by the rich stimulant of corporate money and who has now been turned into an overnight multimillionaire by agreeing to serve as the political face and voice for such corporate barons as Rupert Murdoch. Palin's chief function is to rally the teabag faithful (who are less than 20% of the public) into a cacophonous, furious, and ludicrous defense of the domineering power of--guess who?--corporate barons.

Yet, few in the media peek behind her facade. After hearing Palin loyally denounce the unmitigated evil of government at a recent Tea Party convention, for example, Washington Post columnist David Broder, the eminent establishmentarian, gushed about her "pitch-perfect populism."

Even worse than the media's misapplication of the label is its desperate determination to marginalize what is actually a venerable and historic movement as nothing more than assorted gaggles of grumps and quacks. George Will, the effete conservative commentator, sniffed in a February column that populism is "a celebration of intellectual ordinariness." Then he dismissed its political importance with a sweeping declaration that populism "always wanes because it never seems serious as a solution."

Perhaps George had his signature bowtie too tightly tied that day, cutting off the flow of blood to his memory cells. Otherwise, someone of his intellectual extraordinariness would have recalled that the populists of the 1880s were the ones who formed the first U.S. political party to propose and push such serious solutions as women's suffrage; wage protections and an eight-hour day for labor; direct election of U.S. senators by the people; elimination of poll taxes and literacy tests for voting; corralling the power of lobbyists; civil-service laws; pensions for veterans; a graduated income tax; elimination of all subsidies to private corporations; outlawing the Pinkterton system of corporate mercenaries to bust unions; and preserving America's natural resources from being monopolized for speculative purposes.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eimi Ozawa: Remaking Corporeality and Spatiality: U.S. Adaptations of Japanese Horror Films

“Remaking Corporeality and Spatiality: U.S. Adaptations of Japanese Horror Films”
by Eimi Ozawa
49th Parallel


Since the golden age of the genre in the late 1960s, American horror films have always existed as indices of the status of American society and culture. For one thing, this is because the horror genre has been dominated by the U.S in terms of both production and sales; as Marilyn Manson, in an interview in Bowling for Columbine, assumes that what the American media are doing is a “campaign of fear and consumption, and that's what I think it's all based on, the whole idea of 'keep everyone afraid, and they'll consume.” Fear is deeply incorporated into the essential part of what makes America. Hollywood horror films also have been a product of globalization, being aligned with cultural capitalism; for instance, they had been monopolizing the market of the genre in Japan until the Asian horror boom has occurred past the decade.

The other thing is that, since the birth of the genre, horror films have mirrored what American people fear, which is entangled with the pleasure of watching; and what makes them feel fear heavily depends on the complicit relationship between biological human bodies in jeopardy and the cultural surroundings in which they live. In this case, what does the recent huge Hollywood phenomenon of remaking Japanese horror films mean? This paper aims to examine this question by focusing on the U.S. and Japanese versions of The Ring (2002)/ Ringu (1998). Through comparison of the two versions, I will explore the questions of how cultural translation was made here, and what the differences between two works might mean.

To Read the Essay

On the Media: A Personal Angle on the AZ Immigration Bill

A Personal Angle on the AZ Immigration Bill
On the Media (NPR)

Every so often, when a local story becomes a national story, we like to ask local reporters what they think of all the coverage. This week, Arizona Republic reporter Daniel Gonzalez talks about coverage of that state's controversial immigration bill and about the challenges of being a Latino reporter on the immigration beat.

To Listen to the Episode

On the Media: The Kentucky Press and Rand Paul

The Kentucky Press and Rand Paul
On the Media (NPR)

Tea party icon Rand Paul celebrated his Senate primary victory last [month] by taking to the national airwaves to air some controversial views about the Civil Rights Act. Some media watchers expressed surprise that a candidate with such views could become the mainstream nominee and they blamed the decimation of the local media for the failure to adequately vet Paul. But the Louisville Courier-Journal's Keith Runyon says he and his colleagues did their job.

To Listen to the Episode

Monday, June 21, 2010

Avi Lewis: In Deep Water

In Deep Water
by Avi lewis
Al Jazeera

In the two months since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, millions of litres of oil have gushed out of BP's well into the water each day, slowly encroaching on the coastline.

A menace to the fragile marshlands, the drilling disaster is also threatening a whole way of life for fishing communities in Louisiana - still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina five years ago.

But this is not all new: Big Oil has a long history in this part of the world.

Fault Lines' Avi Lewis travels to the drill zone, and learns about the erosion in the wetlands from industry canals and pipelines, the health problems blamed on contaminated air and water from petrochemical refineries.

On the Gulf Coast, it has long been widely accepted that the fishing and oil industries can co-exist. In the wake of the Deepwater disaster, the more destructive (and more lucrative) industry may be the last one standing.

To Watch the Documentary

TED: P. W. Singer on military robots and the future of war.

PW Singer on military robots and the future of war

P.W. Singer shows how the widespread use of robots in war is changing the realities of combat. He shows us scenarios straight out of science fiction -- that now may not be so fictitious.

To Watch the Presentation

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lee Weston Sabo: Inimitable Charm -- Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox

Inimitable Charm: Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox
by Lee Weston Sabo
Bright Lights Film Journal

Children are smarter than adults tend to give them credit for, especially when it comes to absorbing complex ideas through storytelling. In children's literature, only the most inventive and nuanced writers are successful, the ones who don't merely convey a sense of wonder but actually stimulate imaginations and engage children in meaningful stories. Unfortunately, the same isn't true of children's cinema, which is flooded with watered down, cookie-cutter narratives with simplistic characters, cheap endings, and unambiguous moral lessons. Rarely does a children's film come along with depth to rival the misfit anxiety of Tove Jansson's Moomin series or the sociopolitical tension of Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book. Children experience loneliness and fear, they watch the news and learn about the terrible things in the world, yet many adults seem to think they need to be cloaked with simple, easily digested stories to keep them complacent and content. Hollywood seems to think the same way about the adult population, as well.

Underestimating children's ability to deal with art and narrative betrays a belief that such mental capacity is an exclusively adult attribute. It would be ridiculous to claim that children are as smart as adults, or that children don't watch plenty of garbage in the cinema and on television, but the success of Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are last year indicates that either adults are beginning to find a deeper appreciation of child-oriented art, or that children are finally being given their due access to artistic films instead of just entertainment. I don't have numbers on ticket sales demographics, but I'm betting that it's both, and, in any case, the definition of a "children's movie" is eroding, along with the vague border between what is "childish" and what is "adult" in the cinema. Perhaps it's not so strange, then, that Wes Anderson, a director either obsessed with or frozen in precocious adolescence, should find his greatest film in an adaptation of a short Roald Dahl novel. When an otherwise adult director makes a children's movie, critics often say that he or she seems to have made it for their "inner child," but with Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson, like Dahl, really seems to have told a story to appeal to a child's inner adult.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Radio Open Source: Vishwas Satgar -- The Political Economy of FIFA

Vishwas Satgar: the Political Economy of FIFA
Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Vishwas Satgar has a half-time message from South Africa for World Cup watchers. It’s a quick introduction to “the political economy of soccer” that won’t dent any grown-up’s pleasure in the athletic or human spectacle — no more than, say, the endless buzzing of those vuvuzelas. Short form: most of the money that comes with the games will leave with the games. South Africa will be stuck with four new white-elephant stadia and public deficits and debts much worse than California’s. The engine of Africa’s development will still be a site of rising unemployment, falling life expectancy (at just under 50 years, below Sudan and Ethiopia), and a health-care system in shambles. There’s money in those Budweiser and VISA ads around the World Cup matches that might have been invested in universities, not in FIFA, the football federation.

Vishwas Satgar is a labor lawyer and leftwing activist, an insurgent ex-Secretary of the South African Communist Party who’s way out of alliance with the ANC on the uplift politics of the World Cup. Satgar’s message resonates with the remarkably fair-and-balanced film Fahrenheit 2010 by South Africa-born Craig Tanner. Archbishop Desmond Tutu feels “a world of good — well worth the price” in a South Africa’s month in the sun; “if we’re going to have white elephants,” he says in the film, “so be it.” But the argument that lingers is that “public funds have been looted for a moment in our history. People are still going to be living in shacks.”

Like the Beijing Olympics in Summer ‘08, this World Cup is a coming-out party, and a historic marker for Africa at the center of the maximum stage… without anything like the long-term strategic planning China put into its primetime debut, Satgar argues:

This World Cup has been done, technically and in terms of construction, in sort of record time. There was a grand display of engineering capability and technology and so on. And people in South Africa’s squatter settlements, and in what we could call our slums, I am sure are wondering, ‘If they could do all this grandiose stuff, why haven’t they built us houses over fifteen, sixteen years of democracy?’ So I think these contradictions are going to come back to haunt the political forces that have stood by this.

Vishwas Satgar in conversation with Chris Lydon at Brown University, June 15, 2010.

To Listen to the Interview

The Breeders: Divine Hammer

"Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it."
---Bertolt Brecht (German writer, 1898-1956)

"I'm just looking for one divine hammer … I'll bang it all day long."---Breeders "Divine Hammer" (1993)

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Dancing About Architecture -- Arts Criticism

Dancing About Architecture: Arts Criticism
To the Best of Our Knowledge (PRI)


Manohla Dargis is co-chief film critic for the New York Times. She talks with Steve Paulson about the role of film criticism in contemporary society.


Robert Palmer was a music critic and musician. Yoko Ono said she, Palmer and John Lennon "touched each other's spirit." Palmer's fellow critic, Anthony DeCurtis, has edited a new book called "Blues and Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer." Palmer's daughter, Augusta Palmer, recently made a documentary about her father called "The Hand of Fatima." In a rare joint interview, DeCurtis and Palmer talk with Steve Paulson about Robert Palmer and his work. (also check out the complete and unedited web extra version below) Also, Geeta Dayal is the author of "Another Green World." It's a short book about Brian Eno's 1975 album of the same name. Eno used a deck of "Oblique Strategies" cards to create the album. He created these cards with his friend, the late artist Peter Schmidt. The cards contain phrases like "Honor thy error as a hidden intention." Dayal also used them to help write her book and talks about it with Jim Fleming.


In the early 1970s, John Mendelsohn wrote for "Rolling Stone" and the LA Times and recorded for Warner Brothers Records as a member of the band Christopher Milk. Now he has a new CD called "Sorry We're Open." Mendelsohn talks with Anne Strainchamps and we hear what he's up to now musically.

To Listen to the Episodes

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

J.M. Bernstein: The Very Angry Tea Party

The Very Angry Tea Party
The New York Times


Tea Party anger is, at bottom, metaphysical, not political: what has been undone by the economic crisis is the belief that each individual is metaphysically self-sufficient, that one’s very standing and being as a rational agent owes nothing to other individuals or institutions. The opposing metaphysical claim, the one I take to be true, is that the very idea of the autonomous subject is an institution, an artifact created by the practices of modern life: the intimate family, the market economy, the liberal state. Each of these social arrangements articulate and express the value and the authority of the individual; they give to the individual a standing she would not have without them.

Rather than participating in arranged marriages, as modern subjects we follow our hearts, choose our beloved, decide for ourselves who may or may not have access to our bodies, and freely take vows promising fidelity and loyalty until death (or divorce) do us part. There are lots of ways property can be held and distributed — as hysterical Tea Party incriminations of creeping socialism and communism remind us; we moderns have opted for a system of private ownership in which we can acquire, use and dispose of property as we see fit, and even workers are presumed to be self-owning, selling their labor time and labor power to whom they wish (when they can). And as modern citizens we presume the government is answerable to us, governs only with our consent, our dependence on it a matter of detached, reflective endorsement; and further, that we intrinsically possess a battery of moral rights that say we can be bound to no institution unless we possess the rights of “voice and exit.”

If stated in enough detail, all these institutions and practices should be seen as together manufacturing, and even inventing, the idea of a sovereign individual who becomes, through them and by virtue of them, the ultimate source of authority. The American version of these practices has, from the earliest days of the republic, made individuality autochthonous while suppressing to the point of disappearance the manifold ways that individuality is beholden to a complex and uniquely modern form of life.

Of course, if you are a libertarian or even a certain kind of liberal, you will object that these practices do not manufacture anything; they simply give individuality its due. The issue here is a central one in modern philosophy: is individual autonomy an irreducible metaphysical given or a social creation? Descartes famously argued that self or subject, the “I think,” was metaphysically basic, while Hegel argued that we only become self-determining agents through being recognized as such by others who we recognize in turn. It is by recognizing one another as autonomous subjects through the institutions of family, civil society and the state that we become such subjects; those practices are how we recognize and so bestow on one another the title and powers of being free individuals.

All the heavy lifting in Hegel’s account turns on revealing how human subjectivity only emerges through intersubjective relations, and hence how practices of independence, of freedom and autonomy, are held in place and made possible by complementary structures of dependence. At one point in his “Philosophy of Right,” Hegel suggests love or friendship as models of freedom through recognition. In love I regard you as of such value and importance that I spontaneously set aside my egoistic desires and interests and align them with yours: your ends are my desires, I desire that you flourish, and when you flourish I do, too. In love, I experience you not as a limit or restriction on my freedom, but as what makes it possible: I can only be truly free and so truly independent in being harmoniously joined with you; we each recognize the other as endowing our life with meaning and value, with living freedom. Hegel’s phrase for this felicitous state is “to be with oneself in the other.”

Hegel’s thesis is that all social life is structurally akin to the conditions of love and friendship; we are all bound to one another as firmly as lovers are, with the terrible reminder that the ways of love are harsh, unpredictable and changeable. And here is the source of the great anger: because you are the source of my being, when our love goes bad I am suddenly, absolutely dependent on someone for whom I no longer count and who I no longer know how to count; I am exposed, vulnerable, needy, unanchored and without resource. In fury, I lash out, I deny that you are my end and my satisfaction, in rage I claim that I can manage without you, that I can be a full person, free and self-moving, without you. I am everything and you are nothing.

This is the rage and anger I hear in the Tea Party movement; it is the sound of jilted lovers furious that the other — the anonymous blob called simply “government” — has suddenly let them down, suddenly made clear that they are dependent and limited beings, suddenly revealed them as vulnerable. And just as in love, the one-sided reminder of dependence is experienced as an injury. All the rhetoric of self-sufficiency, all the grand talk of wanting to be left alone is just the hollow insistence of the bereft lover that she can and will survive without her beloved. However, in political life, unlike love, there are no second marriages; we have only the one partner, and although we can rework our relationship, nothing can remove the actuality of dependence. That is permanent.

In politics, the idea of divorce is the idea of revolution. The Tea Party rhetoric of taking back the country is no accident: since they repudiate the conditions of dependency that have made their and our lives possible, they can only imagine freedom as a new beginning, starting from scratch. About this imaginary, Mark Lilla was right: it corresponds to no political vision, no political reality. The great and inspiring metaphysical fantasy of independence and freedom is simply a fantasy of destruction.

In truth, there is nothing that the Tea Party movement wants; terrifyingly, it wants nothing. Lilla calls the Tea Party “Jacobins”; I would urge that they are nihilists. To date, the Tea Party has committed only the minor, almost atmospheric violences of propagating falsehoods, calumny and the disruption of the occasions for political speech — the last already to great and distorting effect. But if their nihilistic rage is deprived of interrupting political meetings as an outlet, where might it now go? With such rage driving the Tea Party, might we anticipate this atmospheric violence becoming actual violence, becoming what Hegel called, referring to the original Jacobins’ fantasy of total freedom, “a fury of destruction”? There is indeed something not just disturbing, but frightening, in the anger of the Tea Party.

To Read the Entire Commentary

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dead Confederate: The Rat

Brian Jarvis: Anamorphic allegory in The Ring, or, seven ways of looking at a horror video

Anamorphic allegory in The Ring, or, seven ways of looking at a horror video
by Brian Jarvis
Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies

Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (2002) begins in media res. In a suburban bedroom, two teenage girls discuss a cursed video tape:

‘Becca: Have you heard about this videotape that kills you when you watch it? You start to play it and it's like somebody's nightmare… and as soon as it's over your phone rings.Someone knows you've watched it and what they say is: ‘You will die in seven days’. And exactly
seven days later...

Katy: Who told you that? I’ve watched it! (2)

In terms of Genette’s narratology, this exposition offers both a completing analepsis (a flashback that tells us what has just happened) and a repeating prolepsis (advance notice of what is just about to happen). (3) It is not certain how many victims the video has already claimed, but shortly after her confession Katy is murdered and ‘Becca severely traumatized. The video kills again at the film’s climax and denouement is deferred by a proleptic promise that it will kill again (a pledge delivered in the sequel, The Ring Two (2005)). The opening point of The Ring simultaneously narrates what has happened and what will happen and is thus both before and after. Whilst recycling the mise-en-scène of teen horror, the prologue also permits a fast-forward subliminal glimpse of key images from the cursed video (a well, a barn, a horse’s eye, a burning tree) that will be replayed and reviewed repeatedly in the scenes that follow. And where do these rotary movements begin? The genealogy of the tape is traced to an originary trauma. Anna Morgan pushes her eleven-year old daughter, Samara, into a well which she then covers. The young girl survives the fall and spends seven days looking up at a ring of light before dying. After her death, Samara’s spirit is transferred to video tape. Should someone watch this video they will receive a telephone call and the cryptic message ‘seven days’. Exactly seven days later Samara returns as an electric ghost that emerges first from the image of the well onscreen and then from the television itself. Samara’s victims are petrified. The shock of seeing this spectre is so intense that the spectator’s face is transfigured into its own grisly death mask.(4)

In ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), Walter Benjamin contended that film, by virtue of its continual and sudden changes, produced a ‘physical shock effect’ in the spectator.(5) For Benjamin, cinema was a privileged medium that crystallized the phenomenology of a traumatic modernity. Whilst cinema constituted a key component in the technological infrastructure, allegory embodied the aesthetic logic of modernity. Benjamin intuited a deep structural affinity between film, allegory and the historical crises of modernity. In The Arcades Project he asserted that ‘allegories stand for that which the commodity makes of the experiences people have in this century’.(6) The allegorical mode appeared to mirror the fragmentation and fetishisation promoted both by commodity capitalism and cinema. However, in a deft dialectical manoeuvre, Benjamin insisted that allegory’s flaws might themselves be redemptive. As a discontinuous montage of historical fragments torn from their normal setting and thrust into violent collisions, allegory might spark defamiliarising jolts that illuminated social and spiritual relations. Rather than simply reflecting alienated experience, allegory possessed the potential for critique by forging, in a flash, previously unseen and unsuspected connections. In The Origin of German Tragic Drama, writing in that characteristically condensed and evocative style which Susan Sontag described as ‘freeze-frame baroque’, Benjamin juxtaposed the illusory unities and transcendence of the romantic symbol and the transparent failings of allegories which are enmeshed, eternally, in the contingencies of history and ruin:

whereas in the Symbol destruction is idealized and the transfigured face of nature is fleetingly revealed in the light of redemption, in allegory the observer is confronted with the facies hippocratica [death mask] of history, as a petrified, primordial landscape.(7)

The observer of The Ring is confronted with death masks, petrification and primordial landscapes. Might these be seen, in Benjaminian terms, as dialectical images haunted by historical allegory? This essay will suggest they can. The Ring will be read as an anamorphic allegory which manufactures a charged circuit of connections between ghosts, young women and numinous optical technologies. Rather than being petrified by the image of an image crawling from underground and across the screen, the observer can unearth the death masks of history here: the history of a necrophile genre, the history of ghosts emerging from various machines, the post-war history of technological exchange between the US and Japan and at ground zero in The Ring, the tale of a little girl and Little Boy.


Perhaps the least speculative but most circular allegorical interpretation of Verbinski’s The Ring would read it as a horror film that encompasses the history of horror film itself. Since it revolves around a scary video, The Ring is an auto-reflexive text which is haunted by its own ghost. In this regard the content is an allegory of the form, or, to be more exact, the content is an allegory of the viewer’s consumption of the film. This qualification seems necessary since the production of images in The Ring is purely of secondary significance. Although Samara is clearly the source of the video, the means of its manufacture is shrouded in mystery and this ellipsis is itself allegorical of a postindustrial age in which, for some, production has become an increasingly remote, invisible and even spectral activity. Whilst the means of the video’s production are vague, the consequences of visual consumption are clear and devastating. Here, looks really can kill. Since its birth, horror film has been the subject of urban legends and conservative censure insisting on the moral, psychological and on occasion physical threats posed by the genre. Screenings of The Blair Witch Project (1999), for example, were allegedly attended by nausea, vomiting and fainting. Sanchez and Myrick’s cult film, like The Ring, circles around mysterious video footage, a young woman and televisual technology whilst threatening to confuse the borders between image and reality. Reports of the damage caused by The Blair Witch themselves replayed folklore surrounding an earlier film that also centred on a young woman: The Exorcist (1973). Even before it reached the cinema, William Friedkin’s film was associated with supernatural violence that included set fires and the deaths of nine members of the cast, crew and production team. Once it was released at the cinema, according to media mythology, The Exorcist elicited so many instances of retching, hysteria and heart attacks that paramedics were routinely stationed in cinemas. A San Francisco newspaper headline proclaimed: ‘The Exorcist nearly killed me!’ In accidental anticipation of The Ring, the evangelist Billy Graham proposed that a demon had entered the very film stock of The Exorcist. The British Board of Film Censors may not have been persuaded that the film was cursed or possessed, but it refused to grant a certificate thus effectively banning the video version of The Exorcist from circulation for seventeen years (from 1981 to 1998).

Horror videos have also habitually been linked to violent crime. In the UK, for example, Child’s Play 3 (1991) was cited by the media as the inspiration for the murder of a three-year old boy, Jamie Bulger. Between 1996 and 2001 there were over twenty cases of murder and serious assault involving the iconic mask from the Scream trilogy.(9) The horror genre, of course, has been plagued by allegations of malign influence since long before films about copycat murder were being blamed for copycat murder. In the late eighteenth century an explosive proliferation in gothic novels, ‘bluebooks’, ‘chapbooks’ and ‘shilling shockers’ was met by accusations of threats to the social, political and religious order. Gothic fiction was charged with promoting superstition and Satanism, heresy and revolution. Young women were considered especially vulnerable to the threats posed by this deviant genre. Self-appointed guardians of female virtue warned that this imperilled cohort might swoon in terror, or, worse still, experience dangerous arousal. The critique of gothic literature and horror film, as has often been noted, typically indulges in hysterical tropes that are pivotal to the genre itself. These tropes can be found dead centre in The Ring: possession, infection, curse and the crossing of boundaries between fantasy and reality.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Michael Koresky: Raw Meat -- On Fast Food Nation

Raw Meat
Michael Koresky on Fast Food Nation
Reverse Shot

Everything about Richard Linklater‘s terrific movie Fast Food Nation (2006) is something of a red herring. A film about huge subjects writ tiny, this freeform fictional adaptation of Eric Schlosser‘s best-selling nonfiction exposé of the meat and processed food industries is not really about the meat at all. It’s a survey of the current culture: big, sprawling, and endlessly frightening, told via the minutiae of everyday life, as it’s lived in one Nowheresville Colorado town.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to followers of Linklater’s extraordinary career. In a sense, the Texan director’s films are never about what they’re about. Or to put it more vividly, perhaps, they confound typical dramatization, even as they appear to grapple with recognizable subjects. Thus, his debut Slacker (1991) isn’t really a generation X-ray at all, despite its wayward title, but rather more of a sketch of universal existentialism; it’s site-specific (it’s still cinema’s most authentic depiction of the bustling hive of open minds that is Austin) but all-encompassing, and it remains a benchmark of Nineties American independent cinema not because it so brilliantly captures a time and place but because it’s profoundly engaged with its crazy quilt of philosophical voices—there’s literally something for everyone in it. Dazed and Confused (1993), his studio-financed disaster turned instant cult classic, is hardly the kitschy, nostalgia-drenched look back at those extraterrestrials known as Kids of the Seventies that its promotional material misguidedly promised, but rather a poignant, and almost alienatingly casual evocation of directionless youth—its painted-on bell-bottom jeans, tie-dyes, and clacking bead necklaces are functional rather than symbolic. And Linklater’s 1995 and 2004 diptych Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, cumulatively his masterwork thus far in his young career, about an American boy falling for a European girl in Vienna and, nine years later, again in Paris, isn’t simply a Brief Encounter for the Kurt Cobain generation, but a deeply spiritual quest for romantic fulfillment that transcends eras as much as it does continents.

Fast Food Nation is reminiscent of those earlier films in style and informality—like them it casually surveys an environment rather than flat-out states a thesis or purpose, and it also drifts around its characters, catching them in seemingly on-the-fly moments rather than engaged in big dramatic dialogues or conversations meant to represent cultural or social shifts. Then again, Fast Food Nation differs greatly from those films in scope. Slacker, Dazed and Confused, and Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, as well as SubUrbia (1996), Tape (2001), and Waking Life (2001), all took place over condensed periods, their narratives resolving generally within the course of one day or night. Fast Food Nation on the other hand, follows many characters, segmented in discrete story zones, over an indeterminate number of days, even months. As such it’s easily Linklater’s best film not contained within a limited time frame, and by extension, perhaps maybe his most purely dramatic film to date. So, even though the film remains remarkably laidback by the standards of Hollywood—the films of which are more apt to pummel viewers into submission than engage them into debate—it’s still clearly borne of a subject that has gotten Linklater riled up. So what is it that has rocked him?

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pearls Before Swine: Non-Traditional Students

Pearls Before Swine

Damian Marley: Confrontation

Don't Get Caught in a Bad Hotel (Workers' Rights are Hot)

Courtesy of Queers Without Borders

Kunst der Vermittlung: Notes on Matt Zoller Seitz’ ”Wes Anderson: The Substance Of Style”

Notes on Matt Zoller Seitz’ ”Wes Anderson: The Substance Of Style”
by Kunst der Vermittlung
Aus den Archiven des Filmvermittelnden Films and Shooting Down Pictures


But such heroic efforts were always complicated by two factors: the time, expense and complex production process once required create such works, and the necessity of seeking approval of copyright owners before quoting anything.

The first problem has been effectively obliterated thanks to technological advances. The combination of digital editing software and DVD ripping programs – I use a combination of Handbrake, Mac the Ripper and MPEG Streamclip for my own pieces – allows a critic to deconstruct a movie and recontextualize it with a degree of freedom comparable to that of a literary critic. The end result can be as drily analytical or as freewheeling as the filmmaker wishes – as expressive of individual sensibility as the work being examined.

The second problem is more vexing, thanks to media companies’ attempts to ignore, subvert and otherwise neutralize fair use provisions of copyright law – an exemption that permits selective quotation for purposes of criticism, commentary, education and parody. It’s strictly a bottom-line issue: companies wish to prevent anyone from quoting any part of a film or television program for any reason without official permission plus a fee, because looking the other way would (in their minds) condone a minor form of the piracy that saps so much revenue from their coffers.

Book, magazine and newspaper publishers have rarely gone to such lengths to control the quotation of written work. This is partly because anyone with eyes and a writing instrument could copy a written passage, and partly because written expression has always been intertwined with a common-sense approach to copyright law, with an awareness that culture is a living, breathing entity that must feed on itself in order to grow.

Now that the process isn’t hard anymore, copyright holders are adopting a zero-tolerance policy – embedding digital watermarks in their content, scouring the internet for any reproductions of that content, no matter how brief or recontextualized, and sending notices to video upload services (such as YouTube) demanding the removal of any videos containing that content. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) requires that service providers remove any content that the copyright holder deems infringing; the person who used that content can protest the takedown, and if the copyright holder doesn’t take further action after two weeks, the content has to be restored. The DCMA also warns that copyright holders who knowingly file or are a party to frivolous takedown notices can face legal and financial penalties – the flipside of holding copyright violators legally accountable for their actions.

This seems like a reasonable way of regulating a vast and perhaps unpoliceable new frontier – after all, with millions of new video uploads occurring each day, copyright holders (and video upload services) simply don’t have enough time or manpower to sift through all the videos individually and decide which are truly violating copyright and which are utilizing copyrighted material in a way that’s protected by the notion of Fair Use. Unfortunately, both the digital-watermark scanning software and the email programs that automatically send notice-and-takedown messages to service providers don’t distinguish between somebody who’s uploading the entirety of Battlestar Galactica (not protected speech) and someone who uses a minute and fifteen seconds of the series in a larger piece about the portrayal of women in science fiction (absolutely protected). As for the ideal of penalizing copyright holders who file frivolous takedown notices, there have been a few examples of this happening; but the system is still stacked against the video essayists, most of whom are independent artists who don’t have the time, money or knowhow to mount a legal attack against those who are interfering with their legally protected right to use Fair Use-exempted material online. And due to widespread ignorance of the law, people who use copyrighted material in online videos tend to recoil in fear at the first sign of a takedown notice, not realizing that they have some recourse, however limited.

However, technology’s forward march being what it is, one suspects that these problems will resolve themselves in due time. It seems inconceivable that takedown notice-abusers could eventually win out in this struggle; with so much of the world getting used to near-total freedom of expression online, the idea that one would have to seek someone’s permission before criticizing or commenting upon their work is not just anathema to reason, it’s faintly fascistic, and as such, cannot be sustained. On top of that, what we’re seeing on YouTube and other sites is the New Normal – the new way of thinking, communicating, interacting with the world. A new generation of critics and artists are comfortable with a collage-type approach to expression, one that appropriates bits and pieces of media and puts them in a new framework -- everything from so-called »mash-up« videos to humor pieces that utilize television news footage to more theoretical works like the ones created by such video essayists as Kevin Lee. And with each passing year, indeed each passing month, the means of expression becomes more supple, the language more expressive. It is already possible for video essayist to express themselves with the same fluidity and idiosyncratic energy that they might bring to written text; just as a dedicated cinephile can identify a particular paragraph as the work of Pauline Kael, Manny Farber or André Bazin, it is also possible (already!) to see a snippet of one of Kevin B. Lee’s videos from the other side of the room with the sound off and say, »That’s got to be Kevin.« Bottom line: despite the best efforts of copyright holders and media companies to fence off this new frontier, it remains not only open, but also ever-expansive. The frontier is wide open.

To Read the Entire Essay

Sunday, June 13, 2010

White Power U.S.A.: The Rise of Right-Wing Militias

White Power U.S.A.
People and Power

Almost a year ago the inauguration of President Barack Obama was hailed as a turning point in US race relations. The country was said to be entering a new era of post-racial politics, on the path to a future of greater diversity and tolerance.

But while crowds flocked to Washington to witness the swearing in, others were refusing to join the party. Racially motivated threats against Obama rose to new heights in the first months of his presidency, with the US seeing nine high-profile race killings in 2009.

Meanwhile white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups claim their membership is growing and that visits to their websites are increasing.

Is the racial undercurrent that has long structured US politics reasserting itself?

Filmmakers Rick Rowley and Jacquie Soohen went inside the white nationalist movement to investigate.

Original Link

Also hosted at Big Noise Films

and a report on the documentary at Democracy Now

Intelligence Squared U.S.: Is paying extra money for organic food really worth it?

Is paying extra money for organic food really worth it?
Intelligence Squared U.S. (NPR)

Some argue that the label "organic" confers real value — marking healthier food produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and antibiotics. But others claim it's just marketing hype — that organic food hasn't been proven healthier and that it comes with its own environmental trade-offs, like requiring more land.

A group of experts recently went head-to-head on the topic in an Oxford-style debate, the latest in the Intelligence Squared U.S. series. Three argued in favor of the motion "Organic Food Is Marketing Hype" and three argued against.

Before the debate, the audience at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts voted 21 percent in favor of the motion and 45 percent against, with 34 percent undecided. After the debate, the percentage who agreed "Organic Food Is Marketing Hype" remained the same, while 69 percent of the audience opposed it. Ten percent remained undecided.

The April 13 debate was moderated by John Donvan, correspondent for ABC News' Nightline. Those debating were:


Dennis Avery is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues. From 1980-88, he served as an agricultural analyst for the State Department, where he was responsible for assessing the foreign policy implications of food and farming developments worldwide. At Hudson, Avery continues to monitor developments in world food production, farm product demand, the safety and security of food supplies, and the sustainability of world agriculture.

Blake Hurst raises corn and soybeans with his wife, Julie, and other family members on a farm in northwest Missouri. The Hursts have farmed for over 30 years and also own and operate a greenhouse business with their daughter and son-in-law. Hurst, a freelance writer, has had articles published in The Wall Street Journal, The Wilson Quarterly, The American and other periodicals.

John Krebs is the principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and is the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom. He was appointed to the House of Lords as an independent crossbencher in 2007. Krebs is a trustee of the Nuffield Foundation; chairman of the U.K. Science and Technology Honours Committee; and chairman of the Royal Society's Science Policy Advisory Group. He sits on the U.K. Climate Change Committee and chairs its Adaptation Sub-Committee.


Charles Benbrook serves as the chief scientist of The Organic Center. He worked in Washington, D.C., on agricultural policy, science and regulatory issues from 1979 through 1997. Benbrook has served as agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality; executive director of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research and Foreign Agriculture; executive director of the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences; and he ran Benbrook Consulting Services.

Urvashi Rangan is the director of technical policy for Consumers Union, which she joined in 1999. She developed its ratings system, database and website for evaluating environmental labels. She serves as a spokesperson for Consumer Reports in the areas of sustainable production and consumption practices, organic food standards, food safety issues, pollution and environmental health concerns.

Jeffrey Steingarten is the food critic for Vogue magazine. He is also the author of It Must've Been Something I Ate and The Man Who Ate Everything, named food book of the year by the British Guild of Food Writers and awarded the 1998 Julia Child Book Award for literary food writing.

To Listen to the Debate

Victory: Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia

Victory: Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia
Common Dreams and Code Pink

Army announcement made just days before planned protest. Several large demonstrations, non-violent civil resistance and regular vigils contributed to its demise.

June 11 - Franklin Mills Mall, Philadelphia, PA - A coalition of thirty peace groups has proven triumphant in their goal of forever shutting down the “Army Experience Center” in a suburban shopping mall in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that the Army plans to permanently close the facility.

After almost two years of glorifying the “Army experience” and U.S. wars through video and war games, the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Malls announced it will shut down on July 31, 2010. The $13 million, 14,500 square foot Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills Mall boasts dozens of video game computers and X-Box video game consoles with various interactive, military-style shooting games. The facility has sophisticated Apache helicopter and Humvee simulators that allow teens to simulate the killing of Arabs and Afghans. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Rob Watson compared the Army Experience Center to "a heavy dose of candy cigarettes."

Dozens of local and national peace groups joined the “Shut Down the Army Experience Center” effort in January 2009, soon after the heavily marketed Center got national press coverage. The mall was the site of several protests of hundreds of people, with more than a dozen arrests.

Six of those arrested were acquitted by a Philadelphia trial judge on May 24, 2010, and prior to that at a trial last year, six arrested were also acquitted.

Elaine Brower, one of those arrested twice, whose son joined the Marines at age 17 and served three tours in Afghanistan & Iraq, became a vocal opponent of the AEC. She said today, “This is a victory for the entire peace and anti-war movement. The team work and coalition building that was accomplished led to our success. We were relentless in our struggle to shut this center down, and we did it strategically. As they say, a people united will never be defeated!”

To Read the Rest of the Report

Friday, June 11, 2010

Democracy Now: Mexican Teenager Shot Dead on Mexican Soil by US Border Agent

Mexican Teenager Shot Dead on Mexican Soil by US Border Agent
Democracy Now

US authorities have said fifteen-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Güereca was part of a group of boys throwing rocks at Border Patrol agents who were trying to detain two people at the border crossing. But a cell-phone video obtained by the Spanish language network Univision shows otherwise. The grainy footage shows the Border Patrol agent detaining one man at gunpoint. While he has the man on the ground, he points his gun toward a second person on the Mexican side of the border. The video shows that person running away as the agent fires several shots. The video then shows a body next to a column under the bridge. We speak to Fernando Garcia, the director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

To Read/Listen/Watch

Democracy Now: After First Reunion in 10 Months, Mothers of 3 Jailed US Hikers in Iran on Visiting Their Children and Continuing the Fight for Release

(I was really impressed by the actions and words of the three imprisoned hikers--inspiring to me, the level of passion, intellectualism and creativity of people who have every right to be bitter, broken, or fearful......)

After First Reunion in 10 Months, Mothers of 3 Jailed US Hikers in Iran on Visiting Their Children and Continuing the Fight for Their Release
Democracy Now

The mothers of the three American hikers jailed in Iran have returned to the United States after seeing their imprisoned children for the first time in ten months. Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal were detained in July after straying across Iran’s border during a hiking trip in northern Iraq. The mothers of the three jailed hikers—Cindy Hickey, Nora Shourd, and Laura Fattal—join us to discuss their visit with their children and their continued fight for their release.

To Read/Listen/Watch

On the Media: In Iran, New Software Takes On Internet Censorship

In Iran, New Software Takes On Internet Censorship
On the Media (NPR)

Almost a year ago, websites such as Twitter helped open Iran's controversial election, and the subsequent protests, to the world. Iranian Tweeters often used foreign computers called “proxies” to bypass the government's censorship regime, but this method was clumsy, says programmer Austin Heap. So he helped create new software that doesn't try to avoid the internet censors; it hides right under their nose.

To Read/Listen to the Episode

Jay Rosen: Eight key terms for determining legitimacy in journalism

Eight key terms for determining legitimacy in journalism
by Jay Rosen
Public Notebook


What would you say are some easily discernable, objective criteria to gauge legitimacy?

I'd start with the will to veracity, also known as truthtelling. Truthtelling even when it hurts or causes problems for your friends. Real journalists tell us what happened because it actually happened that way, and not some other way. All forms of legitimacy derive from this one.

Then I'd move on to a manifest concern for accuracy, as in getting it right and correcting it when wrong.

Third pillar: transparency, also called disclosure, so we know where you're coming from and what your stake is in the matter under review, if any.

Intellectual honesty: like when you paraphrase what Senator Brown says it actually does capture what Senator Brown says. This is sometimes called "fairness," but I think my term is more descriptive.

Currency, in the sense that you are trying to report what happened recently, to keep up with events and what is known now. Journalism is about the present, not what was true six months or six years ago. Legitimacy in journalism has something to do with a determination to keep us up to date with a shifting world.

Inquiry: not the perfect word but the closest fit I can find. I refer to the drive to find out, to inquire and reveal more than what lies on the surface. We all know of situations in which the person in question didn't lie but also didn't try... to find out. That's what I mean by inquiry: trying to find out. Journalism, to be journalism, must do that.

Utility, sometimes called by another name: public service. Journalists can get into legitimacy problems when they are trying to find out, but finding out serves no public purpose. Their legitimacy is clearest when the public interest is served by what they are striving to reveal to us.

Veracity, accuracy, transparency, intellectual honesty, currency, inquiry, utility. That's where I would start in attempting to define legitimacy in journalism. Providers of news, information and commentary who devote themselves to those seven things are solid citizens of Legit-a-land.

I have to add one more, but you will probably hate me for it because it will strike you as jargon, and all journalists claim to hate jargon (but "lede" is okay, right?) Anyway, my eighth pillar of legitimacy is polyphonicity. I know: awful term! It means "more than one sound."

Journalism to be fully legitimate needs to present a plurality of voices, not just one. I don't mean to invoke the gods of balance. They are false gods. I mean to suggest that journalism isn't a monologue. More than one person speaks in it. More than one angle is taken on the object.

Now I am sure you noticed that among my eight key terms for determining legitimacy in journalism one does not find such things as: objectivity, professionalism, "code of ethics," balance, getting paid, being incorporated as a commercial business, working full time at newsgathering, eschewing opinion, bearing a press pass, or getting certified by the (journalistic) powers that be.

To Read the Entire Essay

On the Media: Meet the Facts; Fact Checking ABC's This Week

On the Media (NPR)

Meet the Facts

Last December, NYU professor Jay Rosen proposed something simple yet revolutionary: why don't the Sunday morning chat shows fact check their guests? After "Meet the Press" host David Gregory declined, two college students launched a website to do it for him. One of them, Chas Danner, explains what they're trying to accomplish.

To Read/Listen to the Episode

Fact Checking ABC's "This Week"

Jake Tapper, interim host of ABC's "This Week," liked the idea of fact-checking his guests' comments, so he set up a partnership with Politifact, a non-partisan fact-checking organization. Tapper explains that as a host, you can only do so much fact-checking during the interview.

To Read/Listen to the Episode

Brannon M. Hannock: A Community of Characters – the Narrative Self in the Films of Wes Anderson

A Community of Characters – the Narrative Self in the Films of Wes Anderson
By Brannon M. Hancock
Journal of Religion and Film

In his 1999 article "If I Can Dream: The Everlasting Boyhoods of Wes Anderson,” Mark Olsen dubbed the young filmmaker the beginning of a movement he called "the New Sincerity.” Olsen hints at the possible criteria for the New Sincerity when he notes that:

Unlike many writer-directors of his generation, Wes Anderson does not view his characters from some distant Olympus of irony. He stands beside them – or rather, just behind them – cheering them on as they chase their miniaturist renditions of the American Dream. The characters who inhabit Anderson's cinematic universe, a Middle West of the Imagination, embody both sides of William Carlos Williams' famous edict that the pure products of America go crazy, being, for the most part, both purely American and slightly crazy. Though some might label his people losers, or even invoke that generational curse, slackers, they are in fact ambitious.2

The New Sincerity is an apt phrase, and while it never caught on as a new movement in film, other recent titles come to mind: P. T. Anderson's (no known relation to Wes, by the way) Punch-Drunk Love, Todd Luiso's Love Liza, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman), Zach Braff's stunning debut Garden State, and Jared Hess' Napoleon Dynamite – quirky films that have reminded audiences of their own humanity, of the love and pain and confusion and ecstasy that one feels in the most outlandish and the most commonplace of circumstances. No matter how ridiculous their actions, characters in these films are treated not with pity or irony but with respect and admiration. As Olsen points out, Wes Anderson "is immune to the urge to be down,”3 and the same could be said for the others mentioned above, who eschew the kind of dark, Tarantino-derived edge that seems to proliferate amongst many young filmmakers.

I would like to explore the value of Wes Anderson's films for theological reflection by focusing on the characters that populate his mythopoetic worlds in Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. I will attend to two qualities common to the central characters across Anderson's first three films.4 The first of these qualities I call the abilitytoimaginatively construct, or reconstruct, their own reality. The second might be described as the characters' recognition thatauthentic being or personhood is found only in communion, which is to say in radical inter-relationship with others through participation in a particular community of character(s). Once we have examined these characteristics of Anderson's films, I will conclude by suggesting why Anderson's unique vision, as embodied by his uncanny characters, might teach us something important about what it means, in the first instance, to be, and what it means to be in communion.

Collaboration – Wes and Owen (or, where two or more are gathered...)

I feel as though I should begin by correcting myself, for it is slightly misleading to describe these three films as " Anderson's.” More accurately, they are collaborations between writer-director Anderson and writer-actor Owen Wilson, who has since become widely known for his roles in films such as Zoolander and Armageddon. Anderson and Wilson became acquainted in 1989, where the two then-college-sophomores were enrolled in a lack-lustre playwriting course at the University of Texas at Austin5 (where Anderson went on to earn a degree in Philosophy.6) Both were compulsive cinephiles and storytellers, and soon a creative partnership formed which led to the screenplay for Bottle Rocket. Bottle Rocket and its follow-up Rushmore were both filmed in their native Texas, and both projects involved many friends and relatives from "back home” as cast and crew, including Owen Wilson's two brothers, Luke and Andrew. In a sense, the community of characters within the films mirrors the external community collaborating to produce the films. In this way Anderson and Wilson have much in common with their characters, finding within this creative community the fulfillment and identification that their characters seek within their own fictional communities.

In his foreword to the screenplay for Rushmore, producer James L. Brooks notes that "Wes and Owen are Texans and so their endless fascination with the ol' game of life...is very often concealed behind tight-lipped rhetoric with a distinct sense of the absurd, the joke of it all, which they exhibit whenever there is danger in the air.”7 The danger is the cutthroat man's-world of Hollywood, and Anderson and Wilson are boys brimming with enthusiasm running headlong into it. They are boys with stories to tell, and the stories are their own. They might be dreamers, like their slightly-off-kilter but always empathetic protagonists, but as Bottle Rocket's Mr. Henry reminds us, "The world needs dreamers.”

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Michael Benton: On Anarchism

1) As humans we all exist, but it is our essence that makes us unique. What you are (essence) is the result of your choices (your existence) rather than the reverse. Essence is not destiny. You are what you make yourself to be. Our lives are not given to us, but must be developed consciously with care/consideration.

2) Living in the moment is essential, but we also interact and adapt based on our past experiences and future expectations. Yes, we are fundamentally time-bound beings, but we are also, much, much more than that. Unlike measurable (quantative), "clock" time, "lived" time is qualitative: the "not yet," the "already," and the "present" differ among themselves in meaning/value. We need to be aware of all of these. The impetus of living in the "moment" is that we should not let the past hang on us like a weight causing us to drown, or allow the possibility of an uncertain future to intimidate us to the point of inaction. Remember the lessons of the past, recognize the possibilities of the future, in order to fully live in the present.

3) Anarchism is a person-centered philosophy. Its focus is on autonomy amidst the social and economic pressures of mass society for superficiality and conformism. It is our responsibility, as free and conscious beings, to create meaning out of life and to develop an authentic existence. It is also, in my opinion, in this regard, our duty to help others develop their response-ability to do the same (for me as a teacher this is the core of an anarchist pedagogy). In this anarchism is radically collective in orientation. We are cultivating autonomous, ethical and responsible individuals who care about their community. Anarchism does not discount other beings in this world... it is holistic, in the sense of recognizing that humans are just one set of beings that live and share in the development and continuation of the broader ecosphere.

4) Freedom = Responsibility. Anarchism is a philosophy of freedom. It requires that we step back and reflect/reassess on what we have been doing and what effect our thoughts/actions have on the world. In this sense we are more than just individuals, we are members of larger collectives and our personal ethics always extend beyond ourselves (anarchism is not vulgar egotism). In this we can only be as "responsible" as we are "free." Response-ability, the ability for people to respond to the problems of their society and the impetus for them to care beyond themselves, is only realized by free, authentic and ethical beings. Where there is mindless conformism, shallow consumerism, or brutal oppression, you will see a breakdown in the development of response-ability (both in the ruled/rulers... or, manipulated/manipulators).

5) Ethical considerations are the primary questions. We all understand ethics and freedom differently, this is a given, and thus we must bring each of our understandings into play and sharpen our ideas through open/free public discourse. In this we, as individuals, as a community, as a society, and as a global ecosystem, should consider ethical questions as primary steps to building a better world. An autonomous individual is responsible to develop and consider the authenticity of their own personal lives in relation to their society. My authenticity should not be at the expense of your opportunity to realize yourself (for example, we are not bloated ticks that feed off the misery of others in order to realize some twisted sense of self).