Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anthony Burgess and Malcolm McDowell: An examination of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange

An examination of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange
Produced and directed by John Musilli, 1972. [ENG] A discussion with movie critic William Everson, writer Anthony Burgess and actor Malcolm McDowell about Stanley Kubrick's controversial A Clockwork Orange

Monday, May 30, 2011

BAFTA: A Life in Pictures - Martin Scorsese

A Life in Pictures: Martin Scorsese
BAFTA

Multi BAFTA-winning filmmaker Martin Scorsese, director of Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Shutter Island, discusses his upbringing, films and career in this Life in Pictures interview.

Find out how his working class upbringing in New York's Garment District informed his early cinema

Learn about the technical detail that meant Raging Bull's fight scenes took 10 weeks to shoot

Hear about the metaphysics underpinning Shutter Island, and why he feels it's a 'misunderstood' film

To Read the Rest of the Introduction and to Watch the Video

Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard: The Conversations - Terrence Malick, Pt. 1

The Conversations: Terrence Malick, Pt. 1
by Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard
The House Next Door (Slant Magazine)





Jason Bellamy: Terrence Malick's next film, due soon in theaters, is called The Tree of Life, and coincidentally or not it is set up by the final shot of Malick's previous film, The New World. In both the theatrical and extended cuts of that 2005 film, Malick closes with a shot at the base of a tree: gazing up the side of its mighty trunk as it stretches heavenward. It's a quintessentially Malickian shot, both in terms of the camera's intimacy to its subject and in the way that it presents nature with a spiritual awe, as if the tree's branches are the flying buttresses of a grand cathedral. But the reason I mention that shot is so I can begin this discussion by acknowledging its roots. We've been regular contributors to The House Next Door for almost two-and-a-half years now, and, as loyal House readers know, Terrence Malick's The New World is the seed from which this blog sprouted. What began in Janurary 2006 as Matt Zoller Seitz's attempt to find enough cyber real estate in which to freely explore his passion for The New World—a rather Malickian quest, if you think about it—became something much bigger, until now here we are: writing about the filmmaker without whom this blog and thus this series might not exist.

I make that acknowledgement en route to this one: By the very nature of its origins, The House Next Door has always been something of an unofficial Terrence Malick fan club—nay, house of worship. Many of us first gathered at this site because of this subject matter. (Any immediate kinship many of us felt with Matt was inspired by a shared religious experience with The New World, not to mention the holy awakening of seeing serious criticism posted to the Web by amateur means.) I make this observation in the interest of full disclosure—less an acknowledgement of the House's origins, which so many of its readers know already, than an indication of my awareness of it—in the hopes that by doing so I can convince the Malick nonbelievers that they are welcome here. Because, see, Malick is one of those filmmakers who seems to inspire two reactions: genuflecting reverence and head-scratching ennui. Is there room between the two? Or are total immersion and deference to Malick's filmmaking elemental to its effect? In Part I of this discussion, we will look at Malick's first four films, Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (the theatrical cut), and what I hope we begin to uncover is why Malick's filmmaking inspires such divergent reactions.

I am, admittedly, a singer in Malick's choir. His films don't move me equally, but when they do move me I'm profoundly affected. You come into this conversation having just watched most of Malick's films for the first time. So let me ask a question that will cause the Malick agnostics to roll their eyes and the Malick believers to raise their hands to the sky like Pocahontas in The New World: Did Malick's filmmaking inspire you with a unique sense of awe, or do you feel like you're on the outside looking in, or something else?

Ed Howard: You're right, prior to this conversation I had only seen Days of Heaven, so I came to the rest of these films as an agnostic, aware of the two opposing and equally forceful reactions to Malick's work and ready to be either awed or let down. Instead, I find myself thinking that there is room between the two reactions, or rather that there's room to flow between them, to go from being awed one moment to bored the next, to vacillate between thinking that Malick's distinctive sensibility is either sublime or silly.

In that light, I think one major reason that Malick's films are so divisive is that they're so nakedly emotional, that he's so blatantly aiming for the sublime. To be clear, this isn't a criticism. I admire and love all of these films to one degree or another, even though I never quite reach the level of awed transcendence that so many seem to find in Malick's work. I'm saying that Malick aims high, that his films are often not grounded in storytelling or character—instead, his films drift almost irresistibly toward the clouds, toward the treetops, toward the allegorical implications of the basic scenarios he explores. Sometimes that drift sacrifices the human element in his films, so that the characters and their human-scale stories seem to fade into the beautiful landscapes, overlaid with larger allegories about human society and history as a whole.

All of which suggests a grand sense of ambition. Days of Heaven has a very familiar love triangle at its core, but it seldom feels like that story is the point so much as the larger thematic currents about Depression-era America and social hierarchies. The Thin Red Line is packed with individual characters, but the film is really not about any one man as much as it is about their common humanity in the face of mortality and the evils of war. The New World isn't just—or even primarily—a love story but an allegorical fable about the origins of America and a deeply spiritual examination of the dialectic of progress and stasis. The point is, Malick thinks big, juxtaposing the transience and smallness of individual human lives with history-spanning events like the growth of a tree, the slow and unstoppable churning of natural processes. Maybe that's why large, ancient trees are so important to Malick's most recent films: The Thin Red Line begins with a tree, The New World ends with one, and a tree will presumably be at the center of The Tree of Life. A large tree, growing slowly over decades or even centuries, its roots stretching out into the earth even as its branches spread through the sky, is a perfect metaphor for Malick's expansive perspective on life and death, those big-picture subjects that constitute the heart of his work.

JB: That's true. And of course on a very basic level Malick's tree shots evoke not just his themes but his tendencies. Malick's films are famous for—or, in some circles, notorious for—their frequent observations of environment, which in most cases means observations of the natural world. In determining why Malick's films prove divisive, it's safe to start there, because there aren't too many better ways for a director to be written off as pretentiously artsy than to point a camera at flora and fauna and observe them as something beyond mere scenery.

Malick regards nature with fascination and romanticism, replacing the metaphorical textual descriptions of poets with vivid celluloid images. He's unashamed about his reverence, capturing creatures and plant life with the kind of closeups usually reserved for the productions of National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. In Badlands, we are shown branches and leaves, a gasping catfish and a big black beetle. In Days of Heaven, we stare into the husks of the wheat harvest and the tiny jaws of the locusts that devour them. In The Thin Red Line we encounter crocodiles, birds, a snake and a butterfly, all amidst a forbidding jungle. In The New World, it's chickens, cattle, rivers, forests, storms and blue sky. I could go on. Malick presents such images with a deliberateness that makes many viewers uncomfortable, perhaps because nature is the stuff of poetry and poetry is the stuff of emotion and vulnerability. American audiences are accustomed to ogling cars, guns and cityscapes, but not nature. Nature in most American films is the stage on which the action happens. In Malick's films, nature is part of the action itself.

Of course, nature in Malick's films often feels like an observer of the action, too. That's what you were getting at in describing the way Malick juxtaposes "the transience and smallness of individual human lives" with "the slow and unstoppable churning of natural processes." In Malick's films, man chops down nature to make his home. He harvests it to make his fortune. He hides within it to protect his life. He reshapes it to please his own eye. But he never fully conquers it. Nature is too big and too powerful for that, and only nature seems to know it.

To Read the Rest of the Conversation



Sunday, May 29, 2011

12th & Delaware Offers Unique Inside Look at Struggle Between Abortion Clinic and Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Care Center

"12th & Delaware" Offers Unique Inside Look at Struggle Between Abortion Clinic and Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Care Center
Democracy Now



A new documentary by the Oscar-nominated directors of Jesus Camp offers a rare inside look at the pitched battle over abortion rights that’s being waged not just in Congress and the courts, but on the street corners of small-town America—in particular, one street corner where an abortion clinic and an anti-abortion pregnancy care center sit across the street from each other.

Guests:

Rachel Grady, filmmaker, 12th and Delaware
Heidi Ewing, filmmaker, 12th and Delaware

To Watch/Listen/Read

Hard Core History: #25 The Dyer Outlook

Show 25 - The Dyer Outlook
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Dan discusses the past, present and future with influential Canadian historian, broadcaster and columnist Gwynne Dyer.

Notes:
1.“War: The Lethal Custom” by Gwynne Dyer
2.”Future: Tense: The Coming World Order “ by Gwynne Dyer
3.”The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq” by Gwynne Dyer
4.“Climate Wars” by Gwynne Dyer
5.“Ignorant Armies: Sliding into war in Iraq” by Gwynne Dyer
6.“The Defense of Canada” by Gwynne Dyer and Tina Viljoen Dyer
7.“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond
8.“The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman
9.“Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire” by Niall Ferguson
10. Gwynne Dyer's website

(From his website) GWYNNE DYER has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, broadcaster and lecturer on international affairs for more than 20 years, but he was originally trained as an historian. Born in Newfoundland, he received degrees from Canadian, American and British universities, finishing with a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London. He served in three navies and held academic appointments at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Oxford University before launching his twice-weekly column on international affairs, which is published by over 175 papers in some 45 countries.

His first television series, the 7-part documentary 'War', was aired in 45 countries in the mid-80s. One episode, 'The Profession of Arms', was nominated for an Academy Award. His more recent television work includes the 1994 series 'The Human Race', and 'Protection Force', a three-part series on peacekeepers in Bosnia, both of which won Gemini awards. His award-winning radio documentaries include 'The Gorbachev Revolution', a seven-part series based on Dyer's experiences in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 1987-90, and 'Millenium', a six-hour series on the
emerging global culture.

Dyer's major study "War", first published in the 1980s, was completely revised and re-published in 2004. During this decade he has also written a trio of more contemporary books dealing with the politics and strategy of the post-9/11 world: 'Ignorant Armies' (2003), 'Future: Tense' (2004), and 'The Mess They Made' (2006). The latter was also published as 'After Iraq' in the US and the UK and as 'Nach Iraq und Afghanistan' in Germany.

His most recent projects are a book and a radio series called 'Climate Wars', dealing with the geopolitics of climate change. They have already been published and aired in some places, and will appear in most other major markets in the course of 2009.

To Listen to the Conversation

Colin Moynihan and Scott Shane: For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target

For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target
By COLIN MOYNIHAN and SCOTT SHANE
The New York Times

AUSTIN, Tex. — A fat sheaf of F.B.I. reports meticulously details the surveillance that counterterrorism agents directed at the one-story house in East Austin. For at least three years, they traced the license plates of cars parked out front, recorded the comings and goings of residents and guests and, in one case, speculated about a suspicious flat object spread out across the driveway.

“The content could not be determined from the street,” an agent observing from his car reported one day in 2005. “It had a large number of multi-colored blocks, with figures and/or lettering,” the report said, and “may be a sign that is to be used in an upcoming protest.”

Actually, the item in question was more mundane.

“It was a quilt,” said Scott Crow, marveling over the papers at the dining table of his ramshackle home, where he lives with his wife, a housemate and a backyard menagerie that includes two goats, a dozen chickens and a turkey. “For a kids’ after-school program.”

Mr. Crow, 44, a self-described anarchist and veteran organizer of anticorporate demonstrations, is among dozens of political activists across the country known to have come under scrutiny from the F.B.I.’s increased counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Other targets of bureau surveillance, which has been criticized by civil liberties groups and mildly faulted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, have included antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska. When such investigations produce no criminal charges, their methods rarely come to light publicly.

But Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.

In the case of Mr. Crow, who has been arrested a dozen times during demonstrations but has never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing, the bureau wielded an impressive array of tools, the documents show.

The agents watched from their cars for hours at a time — Mr. Crow recalls one regular as “a fat guy in an S.U.V. with the engine running and the air-conditioning on” — and watched gatherings at a bookstore and cafe. For round-the-clock coverage, they attached a video camera to the phone pole across from his house on New York Avenue.

They tracked Mr. Crow’s phone calls and e-mails and combed through his trash, identifying his bank and mortgage companies, which appear to have been served with subpoenas. They visited gun stores where he shopped for a rifle, noting dryly in one document that a vegan animal rights advocate like Mr. Crow made an unlikely hunter. (He says the weapon was for self-defense in a marginal neighborhood.)

They asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine his tax returns, but backed off after an I.R.S. employee suggested that Mr. Crow’s modest earnings would not impress a jury even if his returns were flawed. (He earns $32,000 a year at Ecology Action of Texas, he said.)

They infiltrated political meetings with undercover police officers and informers. Mr. Crow counts five supposed fellow activists who were reporting to the F.B.I.

Mr. Crow seems alternately astonished, angered and flattered by the government’s attention. “I’ve had times of intense paranoia,” he said, especially when he discovered that some trusted allies were actually spies.

“But first, it makes me laugh,” he said. “It’s just a big farce that the government’s created such paper tigers. Al Qaeda and real terrorists are hard to find. We’re easy to find. It’s outrageous that they would spend so much money surveilling civil activists, and anarchists in particular, and equating our actions with Al Qaeda.”

The investigation of political activists is an old story for the F.B.I., most infamously in the Cointel program, which scrutinized and sometimes harassed civil rights and antiwar advocates from the 1950s to the 1970s. Such activities were reined in after they were exposed by the Senate’s Church Committee, and F.B.I. surveillance has been governed by an evolving set of guidelines set by attorneys general since 1976.

But the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 demonstrated the lethal danger of domestic terrorism, and after the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. vowed never again to overlook terrorists hiding in plain sight. The Qaeda sleeper cells many Americans feared, though, turned out to be rare or nonexistent.

The result, said Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent now at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been a zeal to investigate political activists who pose no realistic threat of terrorism.

“You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of terrorism in many communities,” Mr. German said. “So they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government.”

Complaints from the A.C.L.U. prompted the Justice Department’s inspector general to assess the F.B.I.’s forays into domestic surveillance. The resulting report last September absolved the bureau of investigating dissenters based purely on their expression of political views. But the inspector general also found skimpy justification for some investigations, uncertainty about whether any federal crime was even plausible in others and a mislabeling of nonviolent civil disobedience as “terrorism.”

To Read the Rest of the Article

Jonathan Frazen: Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.

Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.
By JONATHAN FRANZEN
The New York Times

A COUPLE of weeks ago, I replaced my three-year-old BlackBerry Pearl with a much more powerful BlackBerry Bold. Needless to say, I was impressed with how far the technology had advanced in three years. Even when I didn’t have anybody to call or text or e-mail, I wanted to keep fondling my new Bold and experiencing the marvelous clarity of its screen, the silky action of its track pad, the shocking speed of its responses, the beguiling elegance of its graphics.

I was, in short, infatuated with my new device. I’d been similarly infatuated with my old device, of course; but over the years the bloom had faded from our relationship. I’d developed trust issues with my Pearl, accountability issues, compatibility issues and even, toward the end, some doubts about my Pearl’s very sanity, until I’d finally had to admit to myself that I’d outgrown the relationship.

Do I need to point out that — absent some wild, anthropomorphizing projection in which my old BlackBerry felt sad about the waning of my love for it — our relationship was entirely one-sided? Let me point it out anyway.

Let me further point out how ubiquitously the word “sexy” is used to describe late-model gadgets; and how the extremely cool things that we can do now with these gadgets — like impelling them to action with voice commands, or doing that spreading-the-fingers iPhone thing that makes images get bigger — would have looked, to people a hundred years ago, like a magician’s incantations, a magician’s hand gestures; and how, when we want to describe an erotic relationship that’s working perfectly, we speak, indeed, of magic.

Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.

To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.

Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn.

Its first line of defense is to commodify its enemy. You can all supply your own favorite, most nauseating examples of the commodification of love. Mine include the wedding industry, TV ads that feature cute young children or the giving of automobiles as Christmas presents, and the particularly grotesque equation of diamond jewelry with everlasting devotion. The message, in each case, is that if you love somebody you should buy stuff.

A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture’s substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products — and none more so than electronic devices and applications — is that they’re designed to be immensely likable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren’t fixated on your liking it. (I’m thinking here of jet engines, laboratory equipment, serious art and literature.)

But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).

Consumer technology products would never do anything this unattractive, because they aren’t people. They are, however, great allies and enablers of narcissism. Alongside their built-in eagerness to be liked is a built-in eagerness to reflect well on us. Our lives look a lot more interesting when they’re filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery.

And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.

I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love. My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about “getting down in the pit and loving somebody.” She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard.

The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.

To Read the Rest of the Commencement Address

Joanna Chiu: SlutWalk -- Does The Media Make the Message?

SlutWalk: Does The Media Make the Message?
by Joanna Chiu
WIMNs Voices

...

Toronto is the media capital of Canada, so it may have been harder for organizers there to control the messaging. Vancouver is a much smaller city, and SlutWalk Vancouver’s media team made sure to speak to every media organization that requested interviews. They even took the time to respond to the hundreds of questions from Facebook users on their Facebook event page.

Following the publication of my introduction to SlutWalk in The Georgia Straight, the SWV organizers were satisfied with much of the nuanced, in-depth coverage in other media outlets, which relayed an accurate accounting of their goals, as in this Vancouver Observer article:

“‘There is a popular misconception that we are asking people to ‘dress like sluts’ which is completely contrary to our mission,’ Raso argues. She notes the point of the walk is to challenge how the label is used. ‘We recognize that ’slut” is most commonly used in our culture to denote a woman who is assumed to be sexually promiscuous because of how she is dressed, or because of her mannerisms, and that as a ’slut’ she is worth less and deserves less protection.”


The Observer piece also contextualized the initial protest within a larger culture of institutional bias that hinders violence prevention efforts. The article drew important connections: “the attitude of victim-blaming expressed by the Toronto Police officer wasn’t isolated,” they reported, referencing a Saanich police rep who encouraged women to watch their behavior and drinking, which some saw as “putting the onus on women to avoid being raped, rather than on attackers to stop assaulting women.”

However, not all Vancouver media got it right. 24 Hours, a free commuter daily newspaper, ran a sensational article that opened with the lede:

“Women around the globe have joined their “Canadian sisters” to dress provocatively in protest of a Toronto cop’s controversial comments.”


SlutWalk Vancouver organizers swiftly issued an open letter responding to 24 Hours:

“We do not appreciate your paper running a sensational and misinformed article….We would like you to consider mitigating the PR disaster your article could create for our event….[SlutWalk] is not some sensational act focused on dressing provocatively.”


To me, the 24 Hours article sounded positively benign compared to some critiques of SlutWalk swirling around the Internet, such as this blog post by Aura Blogando, which suggested that organizers are white supremacists. While I commend Blogando for looking at SlutWalk with a critical race analysis, she didn’t appear to have based her judgment on attending an actual SlutWalk event. Which makes me wonder: what if the first depiction of SlutWalk she had come across was the Toronto Star’s white women-centered photo gallery?

Margaret Wente, a columnist based in Toronto, who also did not attend any SlutWalk event, wrote derisively in the Globe and Mail that SlutWalk is “what you get when graduate students in feminist studies run out of things to do.” Wente did not interview any of the SlutWalk organizers for her article. Again, I wonder what media sources Wente looked at before she decided to condemn this movement.

I’m not saying that everyone who disagrees with SlutWalk was duped by inaccurate media portrayals of the marches, the protesters, and their goals. More than 60 SlutWalk events have happened or will happen in cities around the world, and each of those events are grassroots efforts unique to each city. I suspect that even the most media-savvy among us would not be able to make an accurate judgment of each and every SlutWalk from consulting media coverage alone.

That is why I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to attend a SlutWalk event to just go. Even if you end up concluding that the event was trivial or exclusionary, your opinion will have greater credibility and impact if you can draw from your own observations.

In my first-hand report on SlutWalk Vancouver for the Georgia Straight, I noted that almost half of the walk participants were men, that the organizers used the word “feminist” with pride, and that the speakers addressed complex issues, such as the intersectionality of oppression and impacts of the word slut with nuance and careful consideration.

But don’t take my young, starry-eyed liberal feminist word for it.

Harsha Walia, a prominent anti-racist and migrant justice activist, arrived at SlutWalk Vancouver on May 15th with many concerns, including about whether SlutWalk excludes low-income women or women of color. Walia attended anyways, and this is what she observed in her piece for rabble.ca:

“I expected to see only a handful of women of color, mothers and children, older women. I was surprised at the actual diversity on the streets, not captured by photographers seeking sensationalist images of bras and fish nets. There was no attempt to recruit everyone into one uniform vision of femininity, nor was there an overarching romanticizing of “sluttiness”; sexual autonomy was being self-determined by each participant — as one placard read “Whether scantily dressed or fully dressed, clothing does not equal consent.” Most heartening was the significant number of teenagers, who are perhaps most pressured against affirming consent and are most impacted by self-shame and victim-blaming, and supporting their voices on the street was a critical gesture of solidarity.”


...

To Read the Entire Commentary

More responses to Slut Walk:

Tamura A. Lomax: SlutWalk - A Black Feminist Comment on Media, Messages and Meaning

Committee to Stop FBI Repression Statement: Secret FBI documents reveal attack on democratic rights of anti-war and international solidarity activists

Secret FBI documents reveal attack on democratic rights of anti-war and international solidarity activists
Committee to Stop FBI Repression Statement (May 18, 2011)
Committee to Stop FBI Repression

FBI agents, who raided the home of Mick Kelly and Linden Gawboy, took with them thousands of pages of documents and books, along with computers, cell phones and a passport. By mistake, they also left something behind; the operation plans for the raid, “Interview questions” for anti-war and international solidarity activists, duplicate evidence collection forms, etc. The file of secret FBI documents was accidently mixed in with Gawboy’s files, and was found in a filing cabinet on April 30. We are now releasing them to the public.

To Access the Documents

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The American Society of Cinematographers: Lance Accord -- Where the Wild Things Are

The American Society of Cinematographers



Where The Wild Things Are: Lance Acord, ASC - Part 1
Lance Acord, ASC, cinematographer of Spike Jonze’ adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, discusses the creative underpinnings of this film and the techniques he used to tackle its artistic challenges with fellow ASC member Rodney Taylor.

Where The Wild Things Are: Lance Acord, ASC - Part 2
Lance Acord, ASC, cinematographer of Where the Wild Things Are, continues his conversation with fellow ASC member Rodney Taylor, focusing on his career and the art scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 80s.

To Listen to the Conversation

Peter Hames: In the Shadow of the Werewolf - František Vláčil's Markéta Lazarová

In the Shadow of the Werewolf: František Vláčil's Markéta Lazarová
by Peter Hames
Central Europe Review



Dawn breaks against a black and white snowscape and a party of wolves makes its way obliquely towards the camera. A hawk hovers above the marsh reeds and we note that it is linked to the hand of its master. The sombre photography and the images of hunters, both animal and human, establish the context of a harsh and predatory world.

This is the opening to František Vláčil's 13th-century epic Markéta Lazarová . It's a film from the mid-1960s, and by no means a familiar title, yet some rank it as one of the best films ever made. In the Czech Republic, a poll of film professionals has ranked it as the best Czech film. That places it above the work of Miloš Forman, Jan Švankmajer, and Oscar-winning titles such as Ostře sledované vlaky (Closely Observed Trains) and Obchod na korze (A Shop on the High Street).

Adapted from a pre-war novel by the avant-garde writer, Vladislav Vančura, Vláčil's film deals with the conflicts between the rival clans of the Kozlíks and the Lazars, and the doomed love affair between Mikoláš Kozlík and Markéta Lazarová. Interwoven with all this is an evocation of the conflict between Christianity and paganism.

Revealing the essence

Vláčil's objectives run counter to the traditional historical film in which he felt he was "seeing contemporary people dressed up in historical costumes." He sought instead to penetrate the psychology of the times. "People then were much more instinctive in their actions, and hence much more consistent. The controlling emotion was fear, and that brought its pressure to bear mainly at night. That is why some pagan customs stayed with man for such a long time."

Not satisfied with a purely intellectual exercise, he took his cast and film team to the Šumava forest for two years. "There we lived like animals ...lacking food, and dressed in rags. I wanted my actors to live their parts. Finally they did. And they loved me, because I gave them the opportunity to live the way they always wanted."

While he was clearly influenced by models such as Ingmar Bergman's Det Sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957) and Akira Kurosawa's Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai, 1954), Vláčil's ambitions reached further. Apart from authentic clothes, implements, and sets constructed by traditional methods, he drew on anthropological studies and used historical language. Like the original novel, he attempted to reveal the essence of human nature.

Despite its extended period of preparation and shooting, the film has the intensity of an almost instantaneous inspiration. The combination of an elliptical narrative with a visually rich and evocative style produces a powerful and fascinating film.

Rich and hallucinogenic

Dramatic scenes such as the attack on a Saxon count and his retinue, a battle filmed as hallucination, and scenes of sexual passion, contrast with rare episodes of repose. The story is complemented by powerful animal images—the raven, the snake, the deer, and the lamb—a poetic menagerie of hunters and hunted. The superstition of the werewolf, common at the time, hangs over the characters' actions.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Damon Smith: America is Watching -- Southland Tales and The Parallax View

America Is Watching
Damon Smith on Southland Tales and The Parallax View
Reverse Shot

“The pure products of America/go crazy”—William Carlos Williams



Paranoia has been out of fashion in the movies since the 1970s. After Oliver Stone’s JFK, the last serious Hollywood-style entry of the post-Kennedy era to posit a hinky what-if conspiratorial scenario, Richard Donner’s execrable Conspiracy Theory, featuring a wild-eyed, motor-mouthed Mel Gibson, demonstrated how marginalized and discredited such tortuously convoluted mindsets had become to the mainstream. In the late ’90s, the American empire was flourishing, and world conflict seemed distant. The X-Files movie, created by Paranoiac-in-Chief Chris Carter, was more an homage to TV’s favorite paranormal investigators Mulder and Scully than it was an attempt to version reality; it was character-based rather than event-driven. But the tragedy of 9/11 roiled all the old fears about government deception, and the culture industry set about its work: Jonathan Demme remade The Manchurian Candidate, AMC created the series Rubicon, modeled after the classic paranoid thrillers, and the Truth Movement gained a foothold, thanks to the Internet-distributed documentary Loose Change. This film, a farrago of irresponsible, sensationalized conjecture, stoked the imagination of those primed to believe that the Bush administration had either orchestrated the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers, or had allowed the hijackers to implement mass murder in accordance with a neo-conservative ideology hatched under the aegis of William Kristol and Robert Kagan’s Project for the New American Century. Theories like these proved that the will to believe anything was still a feature of American public discourse and its politically disenfranchised classes.

By late 2007, as critics dutifully compiled their year-end best-of lists, one film in particular seemed to be vying with Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (an allegory of capitalism-as-madness) for the grand prize of over-the-top, deranged masterpiece: Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, an independently financed, studio-distributed amalgam of Biblical and pop-cultural prophesying spiked with a heady dose of security-state paranoia. Unlike films of the earlier era—Executive Action and Marathon Man, The Conversation and Three Days of the Condor—or present-day thrillers which sought to explain world events in terms of secret political or corporate rationales (Michael Clayton’s tagline: “The truth can be adjusted”), Kelly’s logic-defying Southland Tales was a baffling exercise in futuristic, sci-fi apocalyptica that appears to have burst like a loose, baggy monster from the director’s adolescent id.

The story, like the film itself, is incredibly knotted and nearly impossible to summarize. It doesn’t help that the movie begins with an atomic bomb exploding on the Fourth of July 2008 in Abilene, Texas, and the onset of World War III in the Axis of Evil nations, information conveyed to us by a narrator, Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake), who happens to be a badly disfigured Iraq War veteran and drug addict. From there, we enter the world of an amnesiac, Republican Party–connected action-movie star, Boxer Santaros (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who, after vanishing in the Nevada desert for several days, returns believing he is Jericho Kane, a fictional character from a screenplay he’s co-written with celebrity porn star and talk-show host Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) about the end of the world. The reasons for his disappearance have to do with the machinations of an evil baron (Wallace Shawn), a troupe of culture-jamming neo-Marxist renegades, the advent of new government program USIdent, and the tortured recollections of L.A. police officer and Fallujah survivor (Seann William Scott). Got all that?

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Friday, May 27, 2011

Edwin Nig: The (Zen) Buddhist Heart of I ♥ Huckabees

The (Zen) Buddhist Heart of I ♥ Huckabees
By Edwin Ng
Journal of Religion and Film



David O. Russell's I ♥ Huckabees (I Heart Huckabees) tells the story of Albert Markovski, poet and environmentalist who hires a husband and wife team of "existential detectives," Bernard and Vivian Jaffe, to explain a string of seemingly absurd coincidences in his life where he repeatedly encounters a mysterious "African guy." Together with peer-support buddy Tommy Corn, Albert's identity quickly unravels as the Jaffes encourage him to question the meaning of life and confront his rivalry with nemesis Brad Stand. Brad and his girlfriend Dawn also engage the Jaffes and begin to confront their own existential conundrums. The characters' existential crises unfold in a series of increasingly absurd events and come to a head when all but Brad experience epiphanies to gain insight into the nature of reality, self, compassion, joy and misery.

[2] Huckabees bills itself as an "existential comedy" and its philosophical musing is less than subtle, if somewhat silly. The film is littered with footnotes and references to an array of philosophical and artistic/critical ideas, from Sartrean existentialism to psychoanalysis to surrealism. Reading the film from any one of these (secular) perspectives would certainly make for an interesting read. But as Donna Yarri notes in her review of the film, Huckabees also has distinctive religious undertones; the existential questions asked in the film are perennial religious ones.1 Albert expresses this in no uncertain terms when he tells Vivian, "I want you to find out� about my life ... and about the whole thing, about the universe, you know, the Big One." Russell, I argue, attempts to answer these questions from a Buddhist perspective. I will demonstrate that he is predominantly influenced by Zen. I will highlight how the film invokes the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada) and principles of meditation before offering a close reading of a special effects sequence to demonstrate that Russell employs the visual vernacular of contemporary media culture to "practice" Buddhism, reworking film as meditation and meditation as film to engage us in ethico-political reflection. Zen, Indra's net, and �interconnectivity.'

[3] Russell has admitted that Huckabees is predominantly influenced by Zen. He first encountered Buddhist philosophy at college with Indo-Tibetan Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman. His exposure to Buddhist ideas at college inspired him to later spend several years living in a Zendo.2 While Russell did not pursue Buddhism in the Tibetan tradition of Thurman, it appears that Thurman had nevertheless left a lasting impression on him. Russell mentioned in an interview that the character of Bernard Jaffe was modeled after Thurman. Bernard's philosophy of "universal interconnectivity," however, does not appear to be inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, rather it is distinctively Zen. In his first consultation with the Jaffes, Albert is shown the "blanket." Bernard puts his fist under and moves it across different parts of a plain white blanket, asking Albert to imagine that it represents something different, "You ... me ... Vivian ... the Eiffel Tower ... war ... a museum ... a disease ... an orgasm ... a hamburger." He then tells Albert that these different things are not distinct from one another but are interrelated and "unified." This recalls the Buddhist metaphor of Indra's net, a central thematic of the Huayen school of China which D.T. Suzuki has characterized as quintessentially Zen.3 Francis Cook translates the metaphor as such:

Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each "eye" of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars in the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.4

[4] The blanket clearly lacks the celestial trappings of Indra's net but the modest fabric nevertheless expresses the same wisdom. Cook describes the symbolism of Indra's net as the "infinitely repeated interrelationship of all the members of the cosmos."5 Indra's net is a metaphor for the Buddhist doctrine of pratitya-samutpada, dependent origination or dependent co-arising: Because all beings, objects and phenomena are interwoven in a web of causality, there is no separate or intrinsic self. Rather, all beings and phenomena are not self-existent but co-constituted, interpenetrated, or as Bernard puts it, "interconnected." Bernard's blanket, his philosophy of "universal interconnectivity," expresses the wisdom of pratitya-samutpada. For Cook, Indra's net implies that "there is no centre, or perhaps if there is one, it is everywhere."6 Bernard echoes this when he impresses upon Albert the significance of the blanket: "The universe is an infinite sphere whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." To realize this is to relinquish self-centeredness, which for Buddhism is the root of existential discontent. He even teaches Albert a method to realize the wisdom of the "blanket". Forgetting the self in meditation.

[5] The method involves Albert lying in a body bag, which Bernard claims would "help shut down your everyday perceptions and give up your usual identity that you think separates you from everything." At this point, we enter Albert's consciousness to witness a relentless stream of random thoughts and macabre fantasies: the film segues into one of its many surreal moments as it cuts from images of the external world falling apart like jigsaw pieces to flashbacks of past events to disembodied talking heads abusing Albert.

[6] The sheer bizarreness of the scene aside, it does capture the experience of Buddhist meditation. Russell mentioned that he wanted to debunk the popular (mis)conception of meditation as an esoteric or mystical practice. Meditation for him is to simply close one's eyes to "see what's going on in there."7 Buddhist meditation aims at taming what is widely called the "monkey mind." Through meditation one turns attention inwards to see that the mind is always active, restless and full of thoughts. This is what Albert experiences when he climbs into the bag. But the aim of meditation is not to forcibly suppress the mind. Rather, through sustained practice, one cultivates mindfulness or awareness to observe the mind with equanimity. In this equanimous space, the mind comes to rest on its own accord and the meditator begins to gain insight into its habitual tendencies. The meditator gains insight when conceptual projections, especially the fiction of the self, drops away. Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that "if we continue in our mindful observation there will no longer be a duality between observer and observed." In the absence of the observer-observed duality there is only observation. In this space of pure observation, the meditator begins to understand the nature of bodily sensations, feelings, the mind and mental conceptions, experiencing them as impermanent, contingent, and without intrinsic essence, and hence, develops the wisdom of Indra's net.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Socialism 2011 (Chicago: July 1-4)

Socialism 2011 - Revolution in the Air from International Socialist on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Benjamin Thevenin: "All Your Subversion Are Belong to Culture Industry" (That Means You Too, Banksy!)



Commentary on this at Media Commons: Benjamin Thevenin: "All Your Subversion Are Belong to Culture Industry" (That Means You Too, Banksy!)."

Common Sense with Dan Carlin: #169 Money Talks

#169 Money Talks
Common Sense with Dan Carlin

A Supreme Court decision involving campaign finance has Dan thinking about ways to level the Free Speech playing field. He also interviews Jackie Salit of independenttvoting.org and the Neo-Independent Magazine.

Notes:
1. U.S. Supreme Court case "United v. Federal Election Commission" Justice Stevens' Dissenting Opinion
2. "Court Ruling Invites a Boom in Political Ads" by Brian Stelter for The New York Times, January 25, 2010.
3. "The Corporate States of America" by E.J. Dionne for The Washington Post, January 24, 2010.
4. "41 industry leaders call on Congress to halt corporate 'bribery' " by The Raw Story, January 26, 2010.
5. "Lobbyist gift limit survives" by the Eugene Register-Guard Editorial Staff, January 5, 2010.

To Listen to the Episode

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Conversations with History: Philip Gourevitch - Reporting the Story of a Genocide

Philip Gourevitch - Reporting the Story of a Genocide
Conversations with History (Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley)
Interviewed by Harry Kreisler



Our guest is Philip Gourevitch, staff writer at the New Yorker. His first book, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda, which was published in 1998, was a winner of numerous awards including the National Book Critics' Circle Award for Nonfiction, the George Pope Book Award for Foreign Reporting, among others. In addition to his work for the New Yorker, Mr. Gourevitch has written extensively from Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States for numerous publications, including Granta, Harpers, and the New York Review of Books. He's a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and a contributing editor of Forward newspaper.

Background ... books and other influences ... writing fiction

Writing ... sense of urgency ... knowing what you want to say ... the gap between the ideal and one's abilities

Reporting ... starting in ignorance ... listening and imagining the story ... Vietnamese boat people ... getting people to tell their stories ... convergence of private life and public events

Rwanda and Extreme Situations ... aftermath ... the individual in societies in turmoil ... Rwanda and the Holocaust ... dimensions of the Rwanda genocide ... the case of Paul Rusesabagina ... crucial test of character ... the case of Elizaphan Ntakirutimana ... mystery of human capacity for genocide ... malleability of people
Rwanda and the International Response ... failing the post-Holocaust promise of "never again" ... misreading World War II ... failure of the UN ... promises shouldn't be made ... refugee camps or military bases? ... false morality of "neutrality"

Rwanda and Reconstruction ... slow, painful, uncertain ... the difficulties of state-building ... rational fear and suspicion impede reconciliation

Conclusion ... telling the story ... a reporter's responsibility ... advice to students

To Listen to the Interview

The Fight over Coal Mining is a “Fight About Democracy”: New Documentary with Robert Kennedy, Jr. Chronicles Campaign to Halt Mountaintop Removal

The Fight over Coal Mining is a “Fight About Democracy”: New Documentary with Robert Kennedy, Jr. Chronicles Campaign to Halt Mountaintop Removal
Democracy Now



We speak with environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr., and filmmaker Bill Haney about the new documentary, The Last Mountain, which premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival. The film chronicles the fight against coal mining across Appalachia and Massey Energy’s devastating practice of mountaintop removal to extract layers of coal. "They have to break the law to do this. They cannot survive in the marketplace without violating the law. They violate labor laws. They violate health and safety laws. And by their own records, they’ve had some 67,000 violations of just one of the environmental statutes," says Kennedy of the coal giant that has tremendous political influence at the state and federal level. “It’s not just about the environmental destruction, it’s also about subverting democracy.”

To Watch/Listen/Read

Damon Smith and Kate Taylor: How We Got Here

How We Got Here
by Damon Smith and Kate Taylor
Project: New Cinephilia

...

Cinephilia has a marbled history, of course. During the silent-film era, ciné-clubs popped up all over France, Germany, Sweden, the U.K.; major archives were later established in Paris and New York, London and Milan, and the first wave of theorists attempted to grapple with the question of what, if cinema was to be labeled an art, its effects and constituent parts might be. Then came the classic phase of cinephilia, when a clutch of self-taught young critics in France championed favourite directors and neglected Hollywood films, obsessing over the finer points of style and mise-en-scéne and arguing pointedly the case for auteurism in Cahiers du cinéma, the journal founded by cinephile critic and educator André Bazin, before becoming filmmakers themselves. “Cinephilia was a form of cultism, an art of seeing in movies what others didn’t see—the beauty of form in Hitchcock’s Under Capricorn, say, or the tenderness under the surface of some of Buñuel’s seemingly cruelest films, the diffuse elegance of Stan Brakhage, the wayward intellect of Otto Preminger,” writes James Morrison. “It embraced moments of intensity even in the most banal films…and made of those intensities a private, shared mythology.” In the wake of the events of May 1968, Rashna Wadia Richards reminds us, “ideological critique discredited cinephiliac discourse as capricious and irrelevant,” and much of the fervor and energy of the French New Wave, though it reverberated in the writings of American critic Andrew Sarris, soon dissipated.

Not that cinephilia in its broadest sense—a passion for cinema in all its forms—ever disappeared. The advent of home-viewing technologies (Beta, VHS) and cable television in the late seventies, for instance, brought foreign cinema and hard-to-see independent films into living rooms, making non-experts exhibitors and programmers in their own right, even if (as so many argued) movies arrived in degraded formats that cheated viewers of the full cinematic experience. These arguments are still made today, such as in a piece by Cinematheque Ontario programmer James Quandt, who writes: “ ‘Movie love’ may still be possible, but what if its object of desire is literally obscure—endlessly transferable (an acceleration of Benjamin’s reproducibility) but inferior, a phantom of the original?” Many writers and film scholars cite Susan Sontag’s 1995 essay “The Decay of Cinema” as a pivotal point in this debate. It was a lament about the ubiquity of screens in the digital age, the erosion of standards for how we watch and appreciate and make movies, and a nostalgia for the “vanished rituals” of the darkened theater: “If cinephilia is dead, then movies are dead, too … no matter how many good ones go on being made.”

This line of argument, written on the occasion of cinema’s centenary, resonated in film-studies circles, and initiated a wave of interest in historicizing cinephilia that continues today in the writings of Christian Keathley, Adrian Martin, and Marijke de Valck, among others. But Sontag’s essay ended with a slightly more optimistic thought, dangling at the end of her jeremiad like a ripe fruit waiting to be plucked: “If cinema can be resurrected, it will only be through the birth of a new kind of cine-love.” Four years later, the Australian journal Senses of Cinema published a dossier on “cinephilia in the age of the Internet and video” in which five writers examined the circumstances and possibilities for such a novel expression of movie love. Books began to appear on the subject of cinephilia with more frequency, most notably Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin. Ever since, Rosenbaum and other proponents of the “new cinephilia” have made the case that film-viewing choices have greatly expanded in the age of DVDs, streaming video, and P2P swapping, giving us access to previously unavailable movies from around the world and transforming film culture mostly for the better.

...

To Read the Rest of the Introductory Essay

Benjamin Sampson: Layers of Paradox in F for Fake

Layers of Paradox in F for Fake
By Benjamin Sampson
Mediascape



This visual essay explores how Orson Welles uses the text of F for Fake to comment on his long and troubled career in filmmaking. On the surface, F for Fake seems to be a case study in charlatans, detailing the exploits of art forger Elmyr de Hory and his biographer Clifford Irving, who himself was also a famous book forger. In the broader view, however, Welles’ uses the film to express his personal views concerning two subjects that had hounded his profession life: the ambiguity of authorship and the negative effects of commerce on the art world. Through patterns of film construction, visual motifs, and allusions to previous works, Welles consistently foregrounds the themes of authorship and the art market and their relationship to his own past. He also expresses several views concerning success in the art world, drawing connections from the characters on screen to his own career. In the end, however, many of Welles’ opinions in F for Fake contradict themselves. His logic creates several circular paradoxes, which mirrors the playful, circular nature of the film itself.

To Watch the Visual Essay

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sheila O'Malley: An Ark [What Movie Speaks to You]

[I would be very interested in hearing about your choice -- no judgement or critque on my part, I just want to know "If you had to pick a movie that you think IS your … your heart … what would it be?" -- I recommend you read O'Malley's full essay to get a sens of what this means.)

An Ark
by Sheila O'Malley
The Sheila Variations

...

Then, a couple hours later, the 6 of us I mentioned earlier found ourselves in a circle, chatting. We started with 5, and then Kurt joined us – as the conversation was heating up. He asked for an update, so he could get up to speed, someone filled him in, and he joined in wholeheartedly. There was lots of small talk first. Of course these are interesting funny people, so small talk with them is not, “Nice weather we’ve been having.” Somehow Odie and I started talking about Straitjacket (the William Castle movie with Joan Crawford), and we basically re-capped the entire movie, complete with pantomimes on my part (of her lighting the match off the record player). We talked about the Muppet Movie. We somehow started talking about Stallone (Boone had done a great piece on The Expendables for Capital), and his first screenplay for Rocky (not the shooting script, but what Stallone wrote before he even sold it) and how brilliant it is. And I will just say this, and I’ll get off it quickly: I was the only woman in the group, and I am used to men talking over me, if I am outnumbered. It’s a common thing when men get together, it just happens, and I’m happy to fight my way in to get heard, but it was nice in this conversation to not have to fight.

And it could have gone on in small talk for another hour. The hour was growing late, and the party was winding down. We were engaged with one another. But then Steven Boone said, presenting it to the group, in his soft gentle voice, “I want to know, from all of you, what movie …” he put his hand over his heart. “is your heart.”

Odie said, “You mean like a desert island movie? Because in that case, Coming to America.”

Everyone started laughing (Odie is awesome), and Steven said, “No, no, not desert island … but yeah, Coming to America, of course … but I mean, if you had to pick a movie that you think IS your … your heart … what would it be?”

As one, we all plummeted off the cliff into deep contemplation. Nobody piped up immediately. Everyone thought deep and hard. It was like we were on a suspension bridge, high above an abyss.

“What would yours be?” I asked Steven, a bit of a copout on my part, and he said, “Well, I’m not sure. I would love to hear what people say.”

In a flash, we all got very organized. It happened unconsciously. We were standing in a circle, and, without even setting it up formally, we started going around the circle, first one, then the other. We went in order. One person would say their movie, and then a conversation would erupt about that movie, and then we all would subside again, and, together, look at the next person in the circle, signalling, “Your turn.” Steven had kind of become our moderator. Always with that gentleness and support, he kept us on track. I thought about it later: This is the conversation that he wanted to be having, and so he was requesting of us that we do, too. One resistant person would have tipped the balance, one jokester making sarcastic remarks or making fun of someone else’s choice, or demanding that said person DEFEND their choice, would have ruined the fragile suspension bridge we were on. Our conversation had a polite and somewhat formal structure, and yet that very formality allowed everyone to go deep.

It seemed forbidden to question someone else’s choice. Not that I would anyway, I don’t care if you say Encino Man is your “heart”: I would find that fascinating and illuminating and would want to hear you talk more about it. But one dismissive person would have been like a canker sore, or a blister … something annoying and grating, and keeping us from what we were after: connection with each other’s dreams, longings, loves.

Because here’s the deal: sometimes our most important experiences are tied up in movies. Movies are not “just entertainment” to us. They have often handed important things to us, lessons, chunks of ourselves, or understanding. Movies have often put into words an unnamed grief or a sorrow. Movies have said to some of us in dark moments, “Hey. You’re not alone.” Steven was requesting (without really saying it) that we talk on that level. Yes, it’s fun to go the Desert Island route, too, but most of us said during the talk that our Desert Island movie would probably not be the same thing as the movie we were talking about in THIS conversation. Movies can rip you apart, movies can show you a truth that is so blinding you have to squint. Movies like that may not be comforting if you had to watch them for all eternity on that damn desert island. You might want a little laughter, or a little naked boobies, to break up the monotonous days in THAT scenario.

Steven looked across the circle at Odie, prompting him silently to go first. There’s something so accessible about how Steven listens: and it is listening that creates the “safe space”. Odie said, “You know, I would have to say Sirk’s Imitation of Life.” A rustle of response went through the circle, but nobody spoke. Odie said, “There’s something about that movie that just rocks me, it has to do with my grandmother [corrected!], and how I think about my grandmother, and if I had to pick a movie that spoke to me the most it would be that one.”

My mind, of course, had been racing, ever since Steven Boone asked his question. There were times when one of us would be speaking and I would look around the circle and I would feel two things going on in everyone at the same moment: they were listening, totally listening, but also they were thinking of what THEY wanted to say. It’s not that we wanted to pick the right movie that would get the approval of the group, it is that we really wanted to narrow it down to the best choice, the truest choice, for ourselves. So I found myself listening to Odie, and very moved about what he said about his grandmother, and although he didn’t go into details, I found myself thinking about Imitation of Life and imagining the impact it had on the man standing beside me. It made me feel close to him, even though there is so much I do not know. But at the same time, I was flipping through my entire history of movie-going. What do I say?? One of my childhood favorites? One of my eternal favorites? Like To Have and Have Not or Only Angels Have Wings? But … are those movies the REAL answer to Steven Boone’s question? I actually grappled with this in the 20 seconds I had to think about it. It seemed incredibly important to me that I pick the right movie, that I really grapple with Boone’s question on the level that he was asking it. So, no. Only Angels Have Wings is one of my favorite movies, but I can’t say that it IS my heart. Neither is Running On Empty, although I could make a case for that one, a pretty deep case, actually, and for about 15 seconds it was my first choice. But then, in a flash, I knew exactly what my choice was, and I was shocked that I hadn’t thought of it immediately.

...

To Read the Entire Essay

Another response:

Jason Bellamy: My Movie

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[I've initiated discussions with people about this and will post some random thoughts -- I will also use this as a writing prompt tomorrow in my Argument/Writing course]

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Reply to an IM question by a friend that is now offline:

Yes, it would definitely be a piece in your puzzle and would allow people to understand you a bit more and thus it is a leap of faith in sharing that key piece -- especially in trusting others to not laugh, mock, slam or otherwise dismiss your choice/feelings (why I keep emphasizing my honest desire to know rather than critique here)

Also it is a move to go beyond the superficiality of disengaged reflection and communication (on the fly and sarcastic) this medium encourages. My environmental friends speak of the importance of the "heartwood" ... as a film scholar I'm seaking the cinematic equivalent.

Yes, in response to "it could tell you a piece of an infinite and unsolvable puzzle about how things matter to people" but my desire is that "we" all gain and we all collaborate -- the more pieces shared, the more complete the puzzle may become (with the understanding that this puzzle shifts each time a piece is laid down)

Yes again to your perfect encapsulation: "The simple answer is that each of these movies speak to the 'magic' of being. Not in a hokey way, but to quote Jeff Mangum, 'How strange it is to be anything at all.'."

Thanks comrade for your thoughts and for pushing me to think more on what it is I am trying to do here......

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My choice would be John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. I have written about this film a lot and it always seems to be just outside my reach, as if it is still working its way through my psyche and doing so transforming what I see as me (and what I imagine could be the possibilities for me, you, us, and everyone else could be). See, it so emotionally powerful for me that it sparks and short-circuits at the same time.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Noam Chomsky: There Is Much To Say

There is Much More to Say
by Noam Chomsky
ZNet

On May 1, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in his virtually unprotected compound by a raiding mission of 79 Navy Seals, who entered Pakistan by helicopter. After many lurid stories were provided by the government and withdrawn, official reports made it increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law, beginning with the invasion itself.

There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 79 commandos facing no opposition - except, they report, from his wife, also unarmed, who they shot in self-defense when she “lunged” at them (according to the White House).

A plausible reconstruction of the events is provided by veteran Middle East correspondent Yochi Dreazen and colleagues in the Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/05/goal-was-never-to-capture-bin-laden/238330/). Dreazen, formerly the military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, is senior correspondent for the National Journal Group covering military affairs and national security. According to their investigation, White House planning appears not to have considered the option of capturing OBL alive: “The administration had made clear to the military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command that it wanted bin Laden dead, according to a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions. A high-ranking military officer briefed on the assault said the SEALs knew their mission was not to take him alive.”

The authors add: “For many at the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency who had spent nearly a decade hunting bin Laden, killing the militant was a necessary and justified act of vengeance.” Furthermore, “Capturing bin Laden alive would have also presented the administration with an array of nettlesome legal and political challenges.” Better, then, to assassinate him, dumping his body into the sea without the autopsy considered essential after a killing, whether considered justified or not – an act that predictably provoked both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

As the Atlantic inquiry observes, “The decision to kill bin Laden outright was the clearest illustration to date of a little-noticed aspect of the Obama administration's counterterror policy. The Bush administration captured thousands of suspected militants and sent them to detention camps in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration, by contrast, has focused on eliminating individual terrorists rather than attempting to take them alive.” That is one significant difference between Bush and Obama. The authors quote former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who “told German TV that the U.S. raid was ‘quite clearly a violation of international law’ and that bin Laden should have been detained and put on trial,” contrasting Schmidt with US Attorney General Eric Holder, who “defended the decision to kill bin Laden although he didn't pose an immediate threat to the Navy SEALs, telling a House panel on Tuesday that the assault had been ‘lawful, legitimate and appropriate in every way’.”

The disposal of the body without autopsy was also criticized by allies. The highly regarded British barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who supported the intervention and opposed the execution largely on pragmatic grounds, nevertheless described Obama’s claim that “justice was done” as an “absurdity” that should have been obvious to a former professor of constitutional law (http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-03/osama-bin-laden-death-why-he-should-have-been-captured-not-killed/). Pakistan law “requires a colonial inquest on violent death, and international human rights law insists that the ‘right to life’ mandates an inquiry whenever violent death occurs from government or police action. The U.S. is therefore under a duty to hold an inquiry that will satisfy the world as to the true circumstances of this killing.” Robertson adds that “The law permits criminals to be shot in self-defense if they (or their accomplices) resist arrest in ways that endanger those striving to apprehend them. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how bin Laden came to be ‘shot in the head’ (especially if it was the back of his head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why a hasty ‘burial at sea’ without a post mortem, as the law requires?”

To Read the Rest of the Statement

Information/Knowledge/Secrecy/Censorship: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive

[Includes libraries, archives, hackers, surveillance and whistleblowers]

Ahmed, Nafeez, Keith Allen and Sibel Edmonds. "Unlawful Killing (Secrets of the UK and US Establishments)." Unwelcome Guests #680 (February 8, 2014)

Arnove, Anthony, et al. "Howard Zinn Read-In at Purdue University." We Are Many (November 5, 2013)

Arrington, J. Michael and David Kirkpatrick. "The Facebook Effect." FORA TV (June 23, 2010)

Assange, Julian and Michael Ratner. "Julian Assange on Being Placed on NSA "Manhunting" List & Secret Targeting of WikiLeaks Supporters." Democracy Now (February 18, 2014)

Assange, Julian and Slavoj Zizek. "Full Video of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange & Philosopher Slavoj Žižek With Amy Goodman." Democracy Now (July 2, 2011)

Attewell, Wes, et al. "Leaky Geopolitics: The Rupturesand Transgressions of WikiLeaks." Geopolitics (July 2012)

Baker, Stewart and Daniel Ellsberg. "Debate: Was Snowden Justified?" Democracy Now (February 14, 2014)

Bamford, James. "The NSA's Warrantless Wiretapping Program." Boiling Frogs (July 21, 2009)

---. "They Know Much More Than You Think." The New York Review of Books (August 15, 2013)

Barker, Holly, et al. "The Secret, Silent Poisoning (Nuclear Victims in Peace and War)." Unwelcome Guests #616 (August 11, 2012)

Benkler, Yochai. "Newspaper of the Future." On the Media (January 28, 2006)

Binney, William. "Growing State Surveillance." Democracy Now (April 20, 2012)

Binney, William and Glenn Greenwald. "'On a Slippery Slope to a Totalitarian State': NSA Whistleblower Rejects Gov’t Defense of Spying." Democracy Now (June 10, 2013)

Bishara, Marwan, et al. "Information wars: How will governments deal with the information revolution?" (February 24, 2011)

Bromwich, David. "Diary: The Snowden Case." The London Review of Books 35.13 (July 4, 2013)

Carlin, Dan. #201 - The Secrecy Feedback Loop." Common Sense #201 (June 2, 2011)

---. "Secret Leakage." Common Sense #248 (March 2, 2013)

Chomsky, Noam. "Education for Whom and What?" Z Communications (February 27, 2012)

Coleman, Gabriella. "The Anthropology of Hackers." The Atlantic (September 21, 2010)

---. "Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking." (February 18, 2013)

Conroy, Bill. "More Fast and Furious / Did Cele Call it?" The Expert Witness Radio Show (December 14, 2011)

"Disguised Member of Hacktivist Group "Anonymous" Defends Retaliatory Action Against BART." Democracy Now (August 16, 2011)

Coleman, Gabriella and Alex Golub. "Hacker practice: Moral genres and the cultural articulation of liberalism." Anthropology Today (2008)

Coleman, Gabriella, Rich Fein and X. "Hacktivism’s Global Reach, From Targeting Scientology to Backing WikiLeaks and the Arab Spring." Democracy Now (August 16, 2011)

Crowmwell, David and David Edwards. "Snowden, Surveillance And The Secret State." Media Lens (June 28, 2013)

Dickinson, Tim. "How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory." Rolling Stone (May 25, 2011)

"Disguised Member of Hacktivist Group "Anonymous" Defends Retaliatory Action Against BART." Democracy Now (August 16, 2011)

Doctorow, Corey. "Kafka, meet Orwell: peek behind the scenes of the modern surveillance state." Boing Boing (May 27, 2013)

Drake, Thomas. "Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution." The Guardian (June 12, 2013)

Ellsberg, Daniel, et al. "Wikileaks: Why It Matters. Why It Doesn't." FORA TV (January 19, 2011)

Fang, Lee. "Yahoo Appears To Be Censoring Email Messages About Wall Street Protests (Updated)." Reader Supported News (September 20, 2011)

Gleick, James, et al. "Information." To the Best of Our Knowledge (September 4, 2011)

Gosztola, Kevin and Chase Madar. "Bradley Manning Trial: After 3 Years, Army Whistleblower Begins Court Martial Shrouded in Secrecy." Democracy Now (June 3, 2013)

Greenwald, Glenn. "Bradley Manning: the face of heroism." The Guardian (February 28, 2013)

---. "Edward Snowden "Satisfied" by Global Outrage over U.S. Surveillance Operations." Democracy Now (July 8, 2013)

---. "Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice." Comment is Free (March 12, 2013)

---. "Glenn Greenwald Speaks Out on Edward Snowden and the NSA Revelations." We Are Many (June 2013)

---. "How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations." Intercept (February 24, 2014)

---. "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily." The Guardian (June 6, 2013)

---. "On How NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Helped Expose a 'Massive Surveillance Apparatus'." Democracy Now (June 10, 2013)

---. "'Rogue' Actions of U.S. in Snowden Row Yield Latin American Offers of Asylum." Democracy Now (July 8, 2013)

---. "Where is Edward Snowden? Glenn Greenwald on Asylum Request, Espionage Charge; More Leaks to Come." Democracy Now (June 24, 2013)

Greenwald, Glenn, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras. "Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations." The Guardian (June 9, 2013)

Greenwald, Glenn and Jeremy Scahill. "Death By Metadata: Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Reveal NSA Role in Assassinations Overseas." Democracy Now (February 10, 2014)

---. "Defying Threats to Journalism, Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Launch New Venture, The Intercept." Democracy Now (February 10, 2014)

---. "Report: Obama Administration Considers Assassinating Another American Overseas." Democracy Now (February 10, 2014)

Guevara, Marina Walker, Michael Hudson and Gerard Ryle. "Likely Largest Journalism Collaboration In History." The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (April 3, 2013)

Gwynne, Kristen, Monica Johnson Hostler, and X. "Hacker Group Anonymous Leaks Chilling Video in Case of Alleged Steubenville Rape, Cover-Up." Democracy Now (January 7, 2013)

Hastings, Michael. "Army Whistleblower Lt. Col. Daniel Davis Says Pentagon Deceiving Public on Afghan War." Democracy Now (February 15, 2012)

Horton, Scott. "Secret Federal FISA Court Advocate of National Security State." Law and Disorder Radio (July 15, 2013)

Hrafnsson, Kristinn. "'The Kissinger Cables': Three Years After 'Collateral Murder,' WikiLeaks Explores U.S. Diplomacy." Democracy Now (April 8, 2013)

The Intercept ("The Intercept, a publication of First Look Media, was created by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill. It has a two-fold mission: one short-term, the other long-term. Our short-term mission is to provide a platform to report on the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Although we are still building our infrastructure and larger vision, we are launching now because we believe we have a vital obligation to this ongoing and evolving story, to these documents, and to the public. Our NSA coverage will be comprehensive, innovative and multi-faceted. We have a team of experienced editors and journalists devoted to the story. We will use all forms of digital media for our reporting. In addition, we will publish primary source documents on which our reporting is based. We will also invite outside experts with area knowledge to contribute to our reporting, and provide a platform for commentary and reader engagement. Our long-term mission is to produce fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues. The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed. They will be encouraged to pursue their passions, cultivate a unique voice, and publish stories without regard to whom they might anger or alienate. We believe the prime value of journalism is its power to impose transparency, and thus accountability, on the most powerful governmental and corporate bodies, and our journalists will be provided the full resources and support required to do this. While our initial focus will be the critical work surrounding the NSA story, we are excited by the opportunity to grow with our readers into the broader and more comprehensive news outlet that the The Intercept will become.")

Iraq: The War Logs." (UK Guardian's archive and analysis of the Wikileaks Iraq War documents.)

"Julian Assange in Conversation with John Pilger." Top Documentary Films (2010)

Kahle, Brewster and Rick Prelinger. "The 9/11 TV News Archive: 3,000 Hours of Video News Coverage of 2001 Attacks Posted Online." Democracy Now (August 24, 2011)

---. "Pioneering Internet Archivists Brewster Kahle and Rick Prelinger on Preservation in the Digital Age." Democracy Now (August 24, 2011)

Keen, Andrew, et al. "Debate: The Internet and Democracy." FORA TV (May 18, 2010)

La Greca, Jesse, et al. "Introducing Occupy Educated (Video: November 23, 2011)

Ludlow, Peter. "Hacktivists as Gadflies." The Stone (April 13, 2013)

---. "Jailed Journalist Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years For Reporting on Hacked Private Intelligence Firms." Democracy Now (July 11, 2013)

Mander, Jerry. "Privatization of Consciousness." Monthly Review (October 2012)

Moody, Chris. "How Republicans are being taught to talk about Occupy Wall Street." Yahoo News (December 1, 2011)

Naked Citizens Journeyman Pictures (32 min. Documentary: May 2013)

National Security Archive ["An independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University, the Archive collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The Archive also serves as a repository of government records on a wide range of topics pertaining to the national security, foreign, intelligence, and economic policies of the United States. The Archive won the 1999 George Polk Award, one of U.S. journalism's most prestigious prizes, for--in the words of the citation--"piercing the self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in the search for the truth and informing us all." The Archive obtains its materials through a variety of methods, including the Freedom of Information act, Mandatory Declassification Review, presidential paper collections, congressional records, and court testimony. Archive staff members systematically track U.S. government agencies and federal records repositories for documents that either have never been released before, or that help to shed light on the decision-making process of the U.S. government and provide the historical context underlying those decisions. The Archive regularly publishes portions of its collections on microfiche, the World Wide Web, CD-ROM, and in books. The Washington Journalism Review called these publications, collectively totaling more than 500,000 pages, "a state-of-the-art index to history." The Archive's World Wide Web site, www.nsarchive.org, has won numerous awards, including USA Today's "Hot Site" designation. As a part of its mission to broaden access to the historical record, the Archive is also a leading advocate and user of the Freedom of Information Act. Precedent-setting Archive lawsuits have brought into the public domain new materials on the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Iran-Contra Affair, and other issues that have changed the way scholars interpret those events. The Archive spearheaded the groundbreaking legal effort to preserve millions of pages of White House e-mail records that were created during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations. The Archive's mission of guaranteeing the public's right to know extends to other countries outside the United States. The organization is currently involved in efforts to sponsor freedom of information legislation in the nations of Central Europe, Central and South America and elsewhere, and is committed to finding ways to provide technical and other services that will allow archives and libraries overseas to introduce appropriate records management systems into their respective institutions. The Archive's $2.5 million yearly budget comes from publication revenues, contributions from individuals and grants from foundations such as the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Open Society Institute. As a matter of policy, the Archive seeks no U.S. government funding."]

"List of Edward Snowden's NSA Revelations." Peace Action Wisconsin (2014)

O'Brien, Danny. "We Beat Them to Lima: Opening a New Front Against Secret IP Treaties." Electronic Frontier Foundation (May 15, 2013)

Peter, Justin "The Idealist Aaron Swartz wanted to save the world. Why couldn’t he save himself?" Slate (February 7, 2013)

Phillips, Peter. "Project Censored." Boiling Frogs (June 4, 2010)

Pilger, John. The War You Don't See. (UK: 2010, 97 mins)

Potter, Will. "Indiana Bill Would Make It Illegal to Expose Factory Farms, Clearcutting and Fracking." Green is the New Red (April 2, 2013)
Rosen, Jay. "The Afghanistan War Logs Released by Wikileaks, the World's First Stateless News Organization." Press Think (July 26, 2010)

Ratner, Michael. "Speech on Bradley Manning in Washington DC." Law and Disorder Radio (The event was held at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington DC, December 2012)

Rosenfeld, Seth. "Spies in the Hill." Excerpt from Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012: 11-27.

Rowley, Rick and Jeremy Scahill. "Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare." Democracy Now (January 22, 2013)

Rusbridger, Alan. "Spilling the NSA’s Secrets: Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger on the Inside Story of Snowden Leaks." Democracy Now (September 23, 2013)

Sandberg, Anders. "Asking the Right Questions: Big Data and Civil Rights." Practical Ethics (August 16, 2012)

Scott, William. "The People's Library of Occupy Wall Street Lives On." The Nation (December 12, 2011)

The Secret Iraq Files (Aljazeera archive for the Wikileaks releases of military documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars)

Shorrock, Tim. "Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State." Democracy Now (June 11, 2013)

Snowden, Edward. ""You’re Being Watched": Edward Snowden Emerges as Source Behind Explosive Revelations of NSA Spying." Democracy Now (June 10, 2013)

Sterling, Bruce. The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier (1992)

"The Steubenville Files." Local Leaks (January 1, 2012)

Strickland, Ron. "Cultural Theory: Althusser's Concept of Ideology." Marxism 101 (July 16, 2007)

Ungerleider, Neal. "Iran's 'Halal Internet'." On the Media (March 2, 2012)

Verheyden-Hilliard, Mara. "FBI Considers The Occupy Movement A Terrorist Threat: The State of Civil Rights and Public Policy." Law and Disorder Radio (January 7, 2013)

The War Logs (The New York Times: "An archive of classified military documents offers views of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.")

Watson, Rebecca. "Your Body is Obscene if You’re a Woman, or Look Like One." SkepChick (May 16, 2011)

Watson, Richard. "Future Minds." RSAnimate (October 26, 2010)

Wikileaks (One of many mirror sites for this massive project designed to make vital secret information available to the public.)

Wu, Timothy. "America's First Lesson in the Power and Peril of Concentrated Control Over the Flow of Information." Excerpt from The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010: 22-24.

---. "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires." The Center of Internet and Society (May 15, 2011)

Žižek, Slavoj. “The Spectre of Ideology.” The Žižek Reader. ed. Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999: excerpts.