Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Andre Weil on Simone Weil

André Weil, brother of the great, mystic philosopher Simone Weil:

"She was once describing to me ... some historical theory, or a historical fancy ... I said to her: 'This is a historical question. It must be discussed in terms of the evidence. What is your evidence for what you are saying?' She said: 'I don't need any evidence. It is beautiful, therefore it must be true'."

Source: Light My Fire (The Geology and Geography of Film Canons)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Reports from Zimbabwe, Pt. 2

(Courtesy of JL)

From The Independent (UK), 12 June

Zimbabwe undercover: how Mugabe is burning opponents out of their homes

Our reporter watches covertly as the urban poor are driven into the countryside in a campaign reminiscent of Pol Pot

By our special correspondent in Killarney squatter camp, Bulawayo

From the road you could see the smoke climbing out of the bush like giant black trees. Driving along the burnt-red dirt track, the only sign of life was a bewildered woman carrying a baby. She waved in the direction of the charred mud huts, and kept repeating the word "police". She said that seven truckloads of police with assault rifles had come in the morning. They had forced people from their homes at gunpoint and set them alight. "They told us to get out. They told us they will come back with dogs tonight to make sure we are gone," she told The Independent on Sunday. Beauty and her two children are just the latest victims of a Pol Pot-style campaign waged by President Robert Mugabe to empty the cities and force the population into the countryside. It is a war that has been launched with a concerted attack on the country's poorest and weakest people. Hundreds of thousands living in squatter camps or working in street markets have had their homes demolished or their livelihoods. Mr Mugabe calls the campaign a "clean-up operation" to restore order and beauty to the cities. His critics accuse him of waging a vindictive war on those who didn't vote for his Zanu PF party in the March general election.

Nearly half a million people have been displaced in a drought-stricken country where conservative estimates say that four million are in immediate need of food aid. The United Nations and the World Food Programme are warning of a "humanitarian disaster". "This is like Pol Pot, corralling people into the countryside where they can be controlled and indoctrinated," said Shari Eppel, a Zimbabwe resident and human rights expert. "We're heading into the dark ages here. What we're going to see is selective starvation. He wants people hungry and compliant," said Ms Eppel. Mr Mugabe shows no sign of following Pol Pot's personal example and moving to a rural mud hut. He continues to live in majesty in an expensive district of Harare, where a strict 6pm-to-6am curfew ensures no one can so much as approach the perimeter wall. Until yesterday, Beauty and her family had lived in a one-room house with mud walls and a corrugated iron and thatched roof. They were one of up to 400 families living in the Killarney squatter camp on the outskirts of Bulawayo. Now, only the blackened shell remains and the thick smell of burning thatch fills the air.

As the word spread that we weren't police, people started to appear out of the bush. Many barefoot, they came crunching through the husks of their failed maize crop, carrying whatever they had left. Angry and confused, they wanted to know why the police would do this and where they were supposed to go? One woman, still breast-feeding her baby, said there was nothing they could do. "What can we do to stop them? They had guns. They came suddenly and then they were shouting, 'Get away!' Where are we supposed to go?" she asked. As she spoke, a few hundred metres away on the main road, police pickups with armed men patrolled the roads. Further away roadblocks were set up to stop anyone coming closer to find out what was going on. These scenes have been repeated throughout Zimbabwe. At the Victoria Falls, the crowning glory of a once flourishing tourism industry, an estimated 30,000 people were evicted from squatter camps in a two-day operation that continued yesterday. As their homes were torched and their possessions looted by the security forces, they were told to "go home". One resident said he heard a government minister on the radio, saying that "the black man comes from the countryside and should go back to the countryside". In the capital, Harare, entire squatter camps - home to the majority of the urban poor - have been emptied and burned. Trudy Stevenson, an MP with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, witnessed hundreds of people being loaded on to trucks and sent one way, while their possessions were taken elsewhere. The government insists that their campaign, dubbed "Murambatsvina", or "drive out trash", was a long-overdue purge of the informal economy.

AG Ndlovu, the deputy mayor of Bulawayo, says this is a fiction. "The government came to us and told us to destroy the markets and we said 'no. This is illegal'. They were legally there, we had given them standards, told them where to put their things. They had applied and been given licences." In the past, repression has tended to focus on the opposition stronghold of Matabeleland, with Bulawayo as its capital, and home to the Ndebele people who make up 20 per cent of the population. But the latest campaign has hit just as hard in Harare, where the majority are, like Mr Mugabe himself, part of the Shona tribe. The results of the 31 March elections - condemned by all but Mr Mugabe's allies in neighbouring countries as illegitimate - showed that Zanu PF has lost the cities to the opposition MDC. With the economy in freefall after a five-year period in which Zimbabwe has moved from being the breadbasket of Africa to famine, even an allegedly rigged election cannot hide the scale of the crisis. Agricultural output has been devastated by the farm invasions that masqueraded as much-needed land reform. Little is moving on the streets as foreign currency reserves hit rock bottom and fuel imports have dried up. Fuel queues are so much part of daily life that newspapers advise readers on which is the most sociable queue to wait the four to five days it takes to get petrol. An attempted two-day national strike, organised by opposition groups, human rights activists, churches and unions was thwarted by a campaign of state intimidation. Graffiti on the city walls call for an uprising. But those who still have homes stay put out of fear. "The severity of the onslaught shows how desperate the state is," said Graham Shaw, a former Methodist pastor turned rights campaigner. "If they're raiding street vendors for foreign currency then they're close to the end. Lots of people are saying it's time to take to the streets, but nobody wants to lead them."

From The Sunday Times (UK), 12 June

Mugabe policy branded "new apartheid."
by Christina Lamb

Thousands of Zimbabweans made homeless in the government's ruthless clean-up campaign are being herded into re-education camps and told they can have a housing plot only if they swear allegiance to the party of President Robert Mugabe. Those who refuse are loaded into trucks and dumped in remote rural areas, far from their own homes, where food is scarce. Human rights workers say they are being left to die in what they believe is a deliberate strategy by the Mugabe regime to exterminate opponents. "This is social cleansing to try to eradicate the opposition," said Trudy Stevenson, an opposition MP whose Harare North constituency includes Hatcliffe, where 30,000 people had their homes demolished along with an orphanage for children whose parents had died of Aids. "It's horrific. They are dumping people in rural areas to get rid of troublesome elements to make sure they cant challenge the regime," she added. The government's three-week Operation Murambatsvina - Shona for "clean up the filth" - has left hundreds of thousands of men, women and children without homes. Many are sleeping in streets in winter temperatures with no water. Church groups are warning that thousands could die of disease. There have been outbreaks of diarrhoea and reports of babies freezing to death.

The United Nations estimates that 200,000 are homeless while the opposition claims it is more than 1m. Yesterday police rampaged through Harare, setting fire to the few remaining belongings that many homeless people had salvaged, and warning them against taking refuge in churches. So brutalised is the population that some torched their own possessions on police instructions. A Harare police commander was reported to have authorised the use of live ammunition against people resisting eviction. "I need reports on my desk saying we have shot people," he was said to told his officers. "The president has given his full support for this operation so there is nothing to fear. You should treat (it) as a war." The barbarous campaign has left observers to reflect on the chilling words of one of Mugabe's closest lieutenants, Didymus Mutasa, about weeding opponents out of the population. "We would be better off with only 6m, with our own people who support the liberation struggle," he said three years ago. "We don’t want all these extra people." Since then the population has indeed dropped, with an estimated 3.4m Zimbabweans now living outside the country. Almost half the remaining 11m are on the verge of starvation. A UN assessment last week estimated the maize harvest at only 300,000 tonnes, half as much as expected and one-sixth of Zimbabwe's minimum needs.

Mutasa was made minister for national security in April, putting him in charge of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Mugabe's secret police. Many believe he is carrying out his threat to rid the population of Mugabe's opponents, targeting the cities that voted overwhelmingly for the opposition in elections last March. Youth militias dressed as riot police laughed last week as they smashed people’s homes and livelihoods with bulldozers and sledgehammers. Many were concrete houses where people had lived for years. Markets that have stood since 1945 were razed. The owners watched as everything they had worked for was destroyed in the space of an hour. "A grave crime has been committed against poor and helpless people," read a statement by some of Zimbabwe’s Roman Catholic bishops. "We warn the perpetrators, history will hold you accountable." Some of the homeless have been taken to holding camps outside the city, such as Caledonia Farm. Police guard the barbed wire compounds. Church workers have revealed that those inside are being subjected to political re-education, forced to shout party slogans and warned that they will not be given new plots for homes or licences for market stalls unless they join Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

Miloon Kothari, the UN special envoy on adequate housing, called the evictions "a new form of apartheid". On Friday the White House joined the UN and the European Union in condemning the campaign. Yet within Zimbabwe, reaction has been muted. This is a population that has been cowed by years of torture, rape and food deprivation, where up to 40% are infected with HIV. A two-day mass "stay-away" from work fizzled out last week, leaving Mugabe triumphant and the opposition MDC in disarray. The state control of media meant many workers were unaware of the stay-away. Police went to the homes of those working for utility companies and forced them to go to work. Many within the opposition believe that they are in danger of becoming irrelevant if they do not act soon to topple Mugabe. Leading members are demanding that the party takes a more confrontational stance. "Passive resistance has not worked," said Nelson Chamisa, chairman of the MDC Youth League. "It is time to engage in active struggle."

From IWPR, 6 June
Driving out the rubbish

Government sells its massive demolition programme as regeneration, but many believe it is designed to remove populations from "disloyal" urban constituencies.
By Dzikamai Chidyausiku in Harare

Simon Phiri and his wife Tsitsi desperately battle to salvage a few belongings from their shack before a bulldozer sent in by the Zimbabwean government razes it to the ground. With a bit of luck and the help of their four children, Simon, 39, and Tsitsi, 32, manage to save the family's most essential items - a bed, blankets and kitchen utensils - before the bulldozer crushes their home. The shack, made from corrugated iron, cardboard and plastic, was where the Phiri family have lived for the past 12 years. Simon built it in the densely populated township of Mbare, just outside Harare, in 1993 and all his four children have been raised there. With Zimbabwe's new Chinese-made warplanes occasionally sweeping overhead, President Robert Mugabe's police and demolition squads have turned Mbare into a battleground, leaving houses and makeshift shelters flattened in street after street. Families carrying their remaining possessions on their heads or in carts - wooden planks, sheets of tin, pots wrapped in blankets and plastic - are on the march like refugees in some terrible war, after the mass demolition of their homes in Mugabe's "Operation Murambatsvina", which translates as "Operation Drive Out the Rubbish".

It is a scene of desolation and despair, and one that is being repeated all across the country in an apparent bid to drive hundreds of thousands of people from the towns back to rural areas. This new Mugabe strategy is being compared by critics to that of Cambodia's Pol Pot, who in his "Return to Year Zero" forced the inhabitants of cities into the countryside in the late Seventies. Miloon Kothari, the United Nations special representative on housing for the poor, told reporters in Geneva that he feared Mugabe planned to drive between two and three million Zimbabweans into the countryside in Operation Murambatsvina, launched two weeks ago when police began sweeping street traders from the pavements in Harare and the northern resort town of Victoria Falls. The operation subsequently spread throughout the country. "We have a very grave crisis on our hands," said Kothari. An added concern is that the land is no longer able to feed the people who live on it - let alone extra hungry mouths. A recent report by the Famine Early Warning System Network, a UN agency, said most rural homes have run out of food. It warned that around five million people could starve if the government does not allow international donors to bring in aid.

President Mugabe, in a speech to the central committee of the ruling Zanu PF party, explained the demolitions as a necessary part of urban regeneration, "Our cities and towns had become havens for illicit and criminal practices and activities which just could not be allowed to go on. From the mess should emerge new businesses, new traders, new practices and a whole new and salubrious urban environment. That is our vision." Zimbabwean local government minister Ignatius Chombo used the same utopian language, saying, "This is the dawn of a new era. To set up something nice, you first have to remove the litter, and that is why the police are acting in this way." The independent Standard weekly newspaper hit back with an editorial saying, "Chombo's explanation is nonsensical and an insult to the intelligence of the people of this country. The government should not delight in the suffering of people when it does not have a ready-made alternative for them."

As well as his home, Simon Phiri also lost the trading stall where he sold secondhand clothes at Mbare's colourful Mupedzanhamo market, the biggest in the country and recommended in the tourist guidebooks. As clouds of tear gas mixed with smoke from burning shacks wafted about him, he said, "They have destroyed my house and my small shop at the market. I have nowhere to go. I was born and grew up in Mbare. This is the only home I know." Phiri is only one of the countless thousands of Harare residents who have been rendered unemployed and homeless after police and other state agencies destroyed their homes and stalls as part of what President Mugabe describes as a "clean up" campaign. In Harare alone, some 30,000 informal traders like Simon have been driven out of business. The police say the aim is to rid the capital of "criminals". Victoria Muchenje, another Mbare resident whose shack was destroyed, said, "We are suffering, we have nowhere to go. Our children are not going to school, we are sleeping outside everywhere. If you walk, everywhere you see people sleeping in the road." Wellington Murerwa, was also in tears, as he watched his home burn. "I have lost the only source of income that I had after my vegetable stall was destroyed," he said. "Since 1981 the only place I have known as a home with my family was a backyard shack, and I cannot start all over again." Shacks and other "illegal" structures in other Harare townships such as Highfield and Glenview have been destroyed, ostensibly to "decongest the city".

As police in full riot gear moved in to torch shacks using petrol, many residents tore down their own homes to salvage some of the building materials. Many burned furniture they could not take with them. As well as the mass destruction of housing, more than 23,000 people have been arrested in the continuing campaign. The assaults have left huge numbers homeless and without a source of income. Whole families are now sleeping in the open as Zimbabwe's mid-winter night temperatures dip to freezing point. Others are battling to find scarce transport to take them to relatives' rural homes. About half of the poor in cities like Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare and Gweru live in shacks. Most of them came to the cities because of the failure of education, health services and agriculture in the rural areas, where AIDS deaths are also wrecking traditional social support mechanisms. In all, it is estimated that some 2.5 million people live - or did so until late May - in makeshift urban accommodation without adequate sanitation or clean water, the only kind of housing they could afford. With no access to mainstream jobs, given the imploding economy and unemployment at 80 per cent, such people have taken to the pavements and alleys - cutting hair, mending shoes, weaving baskets and chairs and selling fruit, vegetables and flowers in an attempt to earn a living. The assault has been seemingly indiscriminate. In Victoria Falls, for example, police burnt a six-mile long line of curio stalls that have catering to tourists for as long as anyone can remember. Even squatter camps set up by veterans of the war of liberation against the former white government were destroyed in the police rampage, including two named after war heroes Joshua Nkomo and Josiah Tongogara.

to be continued...

From News24 (SA), 10 June
Zim military awarded medals

Harare - Russia has given medals to Zimbabwe's defence minister and other senior military officials to mark "strong military ties" between the two countries, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported on Friday. Russia's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Oleg Scherbak, awarded the commemorative medals at a ceremony held on Wednesday to mark the 60th anniversary of Russia's defeat of the German army during World War 2. The paper reported defence minister Sydney Sekeremayi as saying Zimbabwe "would continue to source military equipment from Russia and to learn new military tactics in order to defend its territorial integrity". Zimbabwean fighters received equipment and training from Russia during the southern African country's 1970s war of independence from minority rule. Other Zimbabwean military officials who received medals from Russia on Wednesday included the country's defence forces commander, Constantine Chiwenga as well as the commanders of the air force and the army. In his speech Sekeremayi recalled Russia's assistance to Zimbabwe in the past. "Some of our officers are what they are today because of the doctrine they received while being trained in Russia," the minister said. "Some of the guerrilla tactics you used during (World War II) were also in a way modified by us in the fight against (white) settlers," he said.

Friday, June 24, 2005

CFP: Water--Resources & Discourses

Passing this along for my colleagues at Reconstruction


“Water: Resources & Discourses”

You’ve heard about it all your life: “six glasses a day,” “essential to
life,” “60% of your body,” “the next oil,” “don’t drink the...,” “like a
fish out of...,” “a wall of...” Water is one of the most common
compounds on our blue planet; we can’t live in it yet we can’t live
without it. It’s a prerequisite for life and a leading cause of death.
Recent events overwhelm human capacities for management and
understanding: the tsunami that killed a quarter million people and
poisoned the survivors’ fresh water supplies is being followed by
drought; a seven-year drought that nearly emptied two of the largest
man-made reservoirs in the world is being washed out by record rains;
the Arctic is melting while an Antarctic ice sheet the size of Delaware
heads to sea; rovers continue to find definitive evidence of vast
extraterrestrial oceans. On the arts and culture front, water continues
to be, as it has been for millennia, one of the most prevalent,
resilient, and dynamic topics and symbols. If one’s identity, like
Keats’, is writ on water, what is the potential (or possibility) of
writing on water? It seems as good a time as any to find out.

Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture
is calling for papers for a special issue
on the resources and discourses of water. The editors will be
particularly interested in: interdisciplinary studies, especially works
that combine physical science with social and/or conceptual analysis;
multi-media projects; hybrid formulations of
creative/theoretical/scholarly writing; and essays that strike a middle
ground between academic, private, and public sectors.

Abstracts (500 words) due by July 1, 2005 to: Justin M. Scott Coe
and W. Scott Howard .
Completed papers (5,000-10,000 words) due by December 1, 2005;
publication expected, August, 2006.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Hope Yen: Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

(Courtesy of Melissa Purdue)

Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes
by Hope Yen

A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling — assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America — was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Among those still pending for the court, which next meets on Monday, is one testing the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property.

Writing for the court's majority in Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including — but by no means limited to — new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote.

Stevens was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing — David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. The bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects that benefit the lower and middle class.

They were joined by Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy in rejecting the conservative principle of individual property rights. Critics had feared that would allow a small group of homeowners to stymie rebuilding efforts that benefit the city through added jobs and more tax revenue for social programs.

"It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," Stevens wrote.

O'Connor argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, a former mayor and city council member who voted in favor of eminent domain, said the decision "means a lot for New London's future."

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs.

City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.

On the Net:

The ruling in Kelo v. New London

Article Link

Chris Hedges, Jeff Sharlet and Arthur Silber: Observing the "Soldiers of Christ"

This is a repost: Mason just reminded me to revisit it and Harry suggested this essay by Arthur Silber NOT A LAUGHING MATTER ANY LONGER: GAYS AS THE NEW ENEMY WITHIN in the comments of the previous post.

Earlier this month I posted about a NOW TV interview featuring Chris Hedges On the Rise to Political Power of the Dominionists which was following up on an earlier post about a pair of excellent articles in the May 2005 issue of Harper's called the The Soldiers of Christ. Now, thanks to a comment from Bill, I have found out that Jeff Sharlet's "Soldiers of Christ I: Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch and Chris Hedges' Soldiers of Christ II: Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters are now availble online at Harper's website.

These are "must read" essays to understand the "far" right religious control freaks and what their plans are for our country--and why we should be worried!

Also check out an earlier piece in Harper's by Jeff Sharlett in which he examines how the Magic of State is supported by corporate entertainment:

How Clear Channel Programs America

Another must read, is in the June 2005 issue of Harper's, is Karl Meyer's "Forty Years in the Sand," a history of the 20th century British occupation of Iraq and the lessons we should have learned from their experiences ... chilling in the historical similarities.

Harper's magazine is one of the best publications for progressives. Every issue has articles that interest me and I usually read it cover-to-cover. You can't beat a subscription either--12 issues for only $16.97!

Developing My Film Course

Thanks everyone for your comments. A few explanation: 1) I decided to concentrate on contemporary films as the main texts to discuss current issues--with clips from older films to show the development of the cinematic traditions, genres and theories; 2) the films reflect my tastes and interests--there might be some better films or more relevant films, but I can't teach what I can't bear to watch; 3) thus, while I have a populist streak, I am also making statements about quality films and political issues; 4) I kept in mind the interests of my students who would be studying film for the first time--I want them to learn to appreciate and critique film--I want them to understand that it is a business--and I want them to think about the politics of representation--but I also want them to be able to engage with the texts and I do not want to chase them off before they have begun (its a 200 level course at a community/technical college)... so accessibility was a concern in choosing films and readings

This is still a work-in-progress so please feel free to make more suggestions about films and, definitely, readings (online and print). The sections are arranged alphabetically and are not structured for a course yet. In most of them the first film would be shown in the class and the students would choose one of the additional films to watch outside of class. The students will post responses to those films on a weblog and the class will then produce a body of critiques for each section.

From now on I will work with this over at the weblog Cineaste which I have set up as a Film Studies Resource site.

Thanks again to those that offered suggestions


Auteur Theory: Two New York Directors

Do the Right Thing Directed by Spike Lee. Criterion Collection, 1989: 120 minutes.

Tasker, Yvonne. “Spike Lee.” Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers. ed. Yvonne Tasker. NY: Routledge, 2002: 235-243.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. “Say the Right Thing.” Movies as Politics. Berkeley, Ca: University of California Press, 1997: 13-21.

LoBrutto, Vincent. “Political Objectives Through Cinematic Storytelling.” Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005: 114-121.

Gangs of New York. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Miramax, 2002: 167 minutes.

Larke, George S. “Martin Scorsese: Movies and Religion.” Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers. ed. Yvonne Tasker. NY: Routledge, 2002: 289-295.

Tepper, Craig. “Dickens, Griffith and the Gangs of New York: The Belatedness of a Modern Epic.” The Film Journal 12 (April 2005)

Cinematography: From the Silent Era to Digital Films

Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography Directed by Todd McCarthy. American Film Institute, 1992: 95 minutes. {Easily one of the best films I have ever seen about making films. A history of cinematography that is gripping and beautiful—as soon as it was over, I wanted to start from the beginning again.}

Dyer, Richard. “Introduction to Film Studies.” The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Ed. John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson. NY: Oxford University Press, 1998: 3-10. {Good place to begin in that he maps out the two main ways of looking at film technique/aesthetics and cultural/political.

Watch one (or more) of M. Night Shyamalan’s first three movies: The Sixth Sense (Disney, 1999); Unbreakable (Touchstone, 2000); Signs (Touchstone, 2002).

Totaro, Donato. “Visual Style in M. Night Shyamalan’s Fantastic Trilogy, Part 1: The Long Take.” Offscreen (November 30, 2003)

---. “Visual Style in M. Night Shyamalan’s Fantastic Trilogy, Part 2: Mise en Scène.” Offscreen (November 30, 2003)

The Art of Cinematography

Documentary: Truth is Stranger Than Fiction?

The Thin Blue Line Directed by Errol Morris. MGM, 1988: 102 minutes.

Buckland, Warren. “The Non-Fiction Film: Five Types of Documentary.” Teach Yourself Film Studies. 2nd edition. Blacklick, OH: McGraw Hill, 2003: 130-150.

American Movie Directed by Chris Smith. Columbia/Tristar, 1999: 104 minutes.

Beyond the Mat (Director’s Cut) Directed by Barry W. Blaustein. Universal Studios, 2000: 108 minutes.

Bowling For Columbine Directed by Michael Moore. MGM, 2002: 120 minutes.

Brother’s Keeper Directed Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. New Video Group, 1992: 105 minutes.

Buena Vista Social Club Directed by Wim Wenders. Artisan, 1999: 105 minutes.

Capturing the Friedmans Directed by Andrew Jarecki. HBO, 2003:

The Celluloid Closet Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Columbia/Tristar, 1996: 101 minutes.

Confederacy Theory Directed by Ryan Deussing. University of California Extension Center for Media and Independent Learning, 2001: 57 minutes.

The Corporation Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. Zeitgeist Video, 2004: 145 minutes.

Crumb Directed by Terry Zwigoff. Columbia/Tristar, 1995: 119 minutes.

Dark Days Directed by Marc Singer. Ryco, 2000:

Derrida Directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman. Zietgeist Video, 2002: 85 minutes.

Dogtown and Z-Boys Directed by Stacy Peralta. Columbia Tristar, 2001: 91 minutes.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Universal Studios, 2000: 80 minutes.

Fahrenheit 9/11 Directed by Michael Moore. Columbia/Tristar, 2004: 122 minutes.

Laskowski, Nicole. “Michael Moore and Fahrenheit 9/11.” Jump Cut 47 (Winter 2005)

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control Directed by Errol Morris. Columbia Tristar, 1997: 82 minutes.

The Filth and the Fury: A Sex Pistols Film Directed by Julien Temple. New Line, 2000: 103 minutes.

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara Directed by Errol Morris. Columbia/Tristar, 2004: 107 minutes.

Calhoun, Laurie. “Death and Contradiction: Errol Morris’s Tragic View of Technokillers.” Jump Cut 47 (Winter 2005)

Go Tigers! Directed by Kenneth A. Carlson. New Video, 2001: 102 minutes.

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse Directed by Eleanor Coppola. Paramount, 1991:

Hoop Dreams Directed by Steve James. Criterion Collection, 1994: 171 minutes.

Hype! Directed by Doug Pray. Republic Studios, 1996:

Independent Media in a Time of War Speech by Amy Goodman intercut with media clips. Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center, 2003: 29 minutes.

The Kid Stays in the Picture Directed Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen. Warner Brothers, 2002: 93 minutes.

The Laramie Project Directed by Moisés Kaufman. HBO, 2001: 96 minutes.

Lost in La Mancha Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. New Video, 2002: 93 minutes.

Madonna: Truth or Dare Directed by Alek Keshishian. Artisan, 1991: 120 minutes.

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision Directed by Freida Lee Mock. American Film Foundation, 1995: 83 minutes.

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. Directed by Errol Morris. Universal Studios, 2000: 91 minutes.

Calhoun, Laurie. “Death and Contradiction: Errol Morris’s Tragic View of Technokillers.” Jump Cut 47 (Winter 2005)

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism Directed by Robert Greenwald. The Disinformation Company, 2004: 114 minutes.

Paradise Lost II: Revelations Directed Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. New Video, 2001: 146 minutes.

Opel, Andy. “Paradise Lost I & II: Documentary, Gothic and the Monster of Justice.” Jump Cut 47 (Winter 2005)

Roger and Me Directed by Michael Moore. Warner, 1989: 91 minutes.

Scratch Directed by Doug Pray. Palm Pictures, 2001: Directed Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim. Artisan, 2001: 103 minutes.

Stranger With a Camera Directed by Elizabeth Barrett. Appalshop, 2000: 60 minutes.

The Subtext of a Yale Education Directed by Laura Dunn. Citizen Films, 1998: 31 minutes.

Super Size Me Directed by Morgan Spurlock. Hart Sharp Video, 2004: 96 minutes.

Lee, Christina. “Super Size Me.” The Film Journal #9 (July 2004):

LoBrutto, Vincent. “Birth of a Nonfiction Film Style: The Thin Blue Line.” Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005: 305-311.

Unconstitutional: The War On Our Civil Librties Directed by Nonny De La Peña. The Disinformation Company, 2004: 66 minutes.

The Weather Underground Directed by Bill Siegel and Sam Green II. New Video Group, 2003: 92 minutes.

When We Were Kings Directed by Leon Gast. Usa Films, 1999: 94 minutes.

Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzee’s Cry? Directed by Carol L. Fleischer. Artisan, 2000: 100 minutes.

The Fantastic: Identity

Donnie Darko (Directors Cut: 2004) Directed by Richard Kelley II Fox Home Entertainment, 2004: 133 minutes.

Eig, Jonathan. “A Beautiful Mind(Fuck): Hollywood Structures of Identity.” Jump Cut 46 (Summer 2003)

Fight Club Directed by David Fincher. Fox Home Entertainment, 1999: 139 minutes.

Rothe-Kushel, Jethro. “Fight Club: A Ritual Cure for the Spiritual Ailment of American Masculinity.” The Film Journal (2002)

Taubin, Amy. “So Good It Hurts.” Science Fiction/Horror: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. Kim Newman. London: British Film Institute, 2002: 103-107.

Zavodny, John. “I Am Jack’s Wasted Life: Fight Club and Personal Identity.” Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood. eds. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005: 47-60.

Jacob’s Ladder Directed by Adrian Lyne. Artisan, 1990: 116 minutes.

Memento Directed by Christopher Nolan. Columbia/Tristar, 2000: 113 minutes.

Baur, Mchael. “We All Need Mirrors To Remind Us Who We Are: Inherited Meaning and Inherited Selves in Memento.” Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood. eds. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005: 94-110.

Mulholland Drive Directed by David Lynch. Universal Studios, 2001: 147 minutes.


Boys Don’t Cry Directed by Kimberly Peirce. Twentieth Century Fox, 1999: 116 Minutes.

Leigh, Danny. “Boy Wonder.” American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. Jim Hiller. London: British Film Institute, 2001: 110-114.

Rich, B. Ruby. “Queer and Present Danger.” American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. Jim Hiller. London: British Film Institute, 2001: 114-118

Hanrahan, Rebecca. “Popping It In: Gender Identity in Boys Don’t Cry.” Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood. eds. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005: 77-93.

G.I. Jane Directed by Ridley Scott. Hollywood Pictures, 1997: 125 minutes.

Williams, Linda Ruth. “Body Talk.” Action/Spectacle Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. José Arroyo London: British Film Institute, 2000: 44-50.

But I’m a Cheerleader Directed by Jamie Babbit. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 1999: 86 minutes.

History and Film:

Iron Jawed Angels Directed by Katjia von Garnier. Warner, 2004:

Hotel Rwanda Directed by Terry George. MGM, 2005: 122 minutes.

American Cinema: The Western (60 minute documentary)


Jancovich, Mark. “General Introduction.” Horror: The Film Reader. ed. M. Jancovich. NY: Routledge, 2002: 1-19. {Excellent intro to horror as a genre, the history of horror genre criticism and the problems with genre criticism. Jancovich as always provides a general understanding while, at the same time, problematizing traditional assumptions.}

Russell, David J. “Monster Roundup: Reintegrating the Horror Genre.” Refiguring Film Genres: Theory and History. ed. Nick Browne. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998: 233-254. {Analysis and critique of past typologies of the horror genre, with an attempt at a more refined and inclusive system of mapping out horror genres. Good attempt that would be productive for the classroom.}

Guillory, Bradley P. “Stained Lens: Style as Cultural Signifier in Seventies Horror Films.” The Film Journal #10 (October 2004)

American Nightmare: A Celebration of Films From Hollywood’s Golden Age of Fright. Directed Adam Simon. (2004: 73 minutes) {Interesting look at five groundbreaking horror films of the 60s/70s, in particular, how they were a product of their social and political era. This documentary is not a long view history of the genre, rather it is a snapshot of a moment. The focus is on George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, John Carpenter’s Halloween, Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left, Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and David Cronenberg’s Shivers.}

Candyman Directed by Bernard Rose. Columbia-Tristar, 1992: 98 minutes.

Frailty Directed by Bill Paxton. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, 2002: 99 minutes.

Event Horizon Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. Paramount, 1997: 97 minutes.

In the Mouth of Madness Directed by John Carpenter. New Line Home Entertainment, 1995: 95 minutes.

Lord of Illusions Directed by Clive Barker. MGM, 1995: 121 minutes.

Se7en Directed by David Fincher. New Line, 1995: 127 minutes.

LoBrutto, Vincent. “Defining Theme, Metaphor, and Character Through Color, Texture and Environmental Design: Se7en.” Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005: 280-285.

Independent Film: Dialogue/Language

Rausch, Andrew J. “A Shark, a Jedi Knight, and the Modern Blockbuster.” Turning Points in Film History. NY: Citadel Press, 2004: 199-210.

Shaw, Richard. “Are the U.S.A.’s Independent Films a Distinct National Cinema?” The Film Journal #6 (2002)

Schizopolis Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Criterion Collection, 1997: 96 minutes.

Slacker Directed by Richard Linklater. Criterion Collection, 1991: 97 minutes.

Miller’s Crossing Directed by the Coen Brothers. Twentieth Century Fox, 1990: 115 minutes.

Coughlin, Paul. “Language Aesthetics in Three Films by Joel and Ethan Coen.” The Film Journal 12 (April 2005)

Clerks Directed by Kevin Smith. Miramax, 1994: 92 minutes.

Military Film:

Three Kings Directed David O. Russell. Warner, 1999: 115 minutes.

Kataeff, Lila. “Three Kings: Neocolonial Arab Representation.” Jump Cut 46 (Summer 2003)

Apocalypse Now: Redux Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Paramount, 1979/2001: 202 minutes.

LoBrutto, Vincent. “Tableau Narrative Structure and Sound Design.” Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005: 14-19.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan. “Vietnam, The Theme Park.” Movies as Politics. Berkeley, Ca: University of California Press, 1997: 134-139.

The Thin Red Line Directed by Terence Malick. Twentieth Century Fox, 1999: 170 minutes.

Saving Private Ryan Directed by Steven Spielberg. Dreamworks, 1999: 169 minutes.

Born on the Fourth of July Directed by Oliver Stone. Universal Studios, 1989: 145 minutes.

Platoon Directed by Oliver Stone. MGM, 1986: 120 minutes.

Full Metal Jacket Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Warner Studios, 1987: 117 minutes.

Philosophy and Film: Movies and the Meaning of Life

I Heart Huckabees Directed by David O. Russell. Twentieth Century Fox, 2004: 107 minutes.

Garrett, Daniel. “David Owen Russell’s I Heart Huckabees.” Offscreen 9.1 (January 31, 2005)

American Beauty Directed by Sam Mendes. Universal Studios, 1999: 122 minutes.

Hole, George T. “American Beauty: Look Closer.” Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood. eds. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005: 153-168.

Contact Directed by Roger Zemeckis. Warner Studios, 1997: 150 minutes.

Keith, Heather and Steve Fesmire. “Our Place in the Cosmos: Faith and Belief in Contact.” Movies and the Meaning of Life: Philosophers Take on Hollywood. eds. Kimberly A. Blessing and Paul J. Tudico. Chicago: Open Court, 2005: 17-31.

Science Fiction:

Blade Runner (Director’s Cut) Directed by Ridley Scott. Warner Brothers, 1982/1993: 117 minutes.

LoBrutto, Vincent. “Production Design: Blade Runner.” Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005: 39-45.

The Matrix Directed by the Wachowski Brothers. Warner, 1999: 136 minutes.

Solaris Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Twentieth Century Fox, 2002: 99 minutes.

Starship Troopers Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Columbia Tristar, 1997: 130 minutes.

O’Hehir, Andrew. “Starship Troopers (Review)” Action/Spectacle Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. José Arroyo London: British Film Institute, 2000: 254-256.

Social Realism: Class

Ginsberg, Terri, Chuck Kleinhans and Dennis Broe. “Bibliography on Class in Film and Media Studies.” Jump Cut 47 (Winter 2005)

Slam Directed by Marv Levin. Vidmark/Trimark, 1998: 103 minutes.

Gosford Park Directed by Robert Altman. Universal Studios, 2001: 138 minutes.

Matewan Directed by John Sayles. Lions Gate, 1987:

Teen Films: The Sites of Youth

Foxfire Directed by Annette Haywood-Carter. Columbia-Tristar Studios, 1996: 102 minutes.

Boyz N the Hood Directed by John Singleton. Columbia-Tristar, 1991: 112 minutes.

Diawara, Manthia. “Black American Cinema: The New Realism.” Film and Theory. ed. Robert Stam and Toby Miller. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000: 236-256.

Dazed and Confused Directed by Richard Linklater. Universal Studios, 1993: 103 minutes.

Naploean Dynamite Directed by Jared Hess. Twentieth Century Fox, 2004: 89 minutes.

Writer: Charlie Kaufman

Being John Malkovich Directed by Spike Jonze. Universal Studios, 1999: 113 minutes.

Human Nature Directed by Mike Gondry. New Line Home Entertainment, 2001: 96 minutes.

Adaptation Directed by Spike Jonze. Columbia-Tristar, 2003: 115 minutes.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Directed by George Clooney. Miramax, 2003: 114 minutes.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Directed by Mike Gondry. Universal Studios, 2004: 108 minutes.

Mount, John. “How To Get a Head in Movies: Interview of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman.” American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. Jim Hiller. London: British Film Institute, 2001: 190-192.

Romney, Jonathan. “Being John Malkovich (Review).” American Independent Cinema: A Sight and Sound Reader. ed. Jim Hiller. London: British Film Institute, 2001: 192-194.

Future Movies profile

MSNBC profile

Salon profile

Spliced profile

CFP: Theories/Practices of Blogging

This is a call for papers for a special theme issue on “blogging” to be published as a threshold issue in the journal Reconstruction. The editors of this theme issue are looking for papers/projects/manifestos on the subject of “blogging.”

Possible topics:
Theorization of the Blogosphere
Blogging Manifesto
Politics and/of Blogging
Aesthetics of Blogs
Activist Blogging
Auto/Biographical Blogs
New Media/Communication Theories and Blogging
New Journalism Blogging
Civil Rights of Bloggers
Global Culture and Blogging
Local Culture and Blogging
Education and Blogging
Gender and Blogging
Race and Blogging
Collective Blogs
Community of Bloggers
Unrealized Potential of Blogging
Critiques of Blogging
Representations of Space/Place on Blogs
Purpose of a Unique Individual/Collective Blog
Audio and Visual Blogs

We are especially interested in the experiences, theories and perspectives of those who actually blog. We are looking for longer theoretical essays and shorter statements/manifestos about blogging--including pieces that have already been posted on your blogs. We are also soliciting reviews of books about blogging and your favorite weblogs. Deadline for submissions is October 20, 2006. The issue is scheduled to be published as Winter 2006 issue.

Feel free to propose other topics to the editors: Michael Benton (University of Kentucky; editor for Reconstruction; founder of the blog Dialogic) and Lauren Elkin. Send all queries, proposals and manuscripts to

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rob Halford

I just listened to this in-depth NPR profile of the metal icon Rob Halford of the band Judas Priest and was struck by his intelligence and humor:

Listen to the Interview and Songs From the New CD

Judas Priest has a new album out, Angel of Retribution, and is on tour this summer. Originally from Birmingham, England, Judas Priest pioneered the heavy metal sound in the 1970s and '80s. Lead singer Halford left the band in 1991, citing internal tension, and in 1998, he disclosed that he is gay during an interview on MTV. Nicknamed the "Metal God," Halford returned to Judas Priest in 2003. The band -- which takes its name from the Bob Dylan song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" -- is best known for songs such as "Breaking the Law," "Hell Bent for Leather" and "Livin' After Midnight."

Democracy Now: PBS TV Station President Warns CPB Funding Cuts Will Launch "Spiral of Death for Public Broadcasting"

Some left-leaning colleagues have commented lately that it really doesn't matter if PBS is defunded (of course, even more are seriously pissed off and are attempting to stop this move)... I think that this attitude ignores the important role PBS and NPR play in initiating critical thought in our citizens. True, they are not radical as many would desire (and perhaps that is valuable in itself), but they are an intelligent option that does reach those that do not access other independent, alternative news and entertainment agencies. NPR and public radio stations also play vital roles in providing forums for independent artists and presenting diverse issues and opinions on our radio airwaves (much better than the piped in dreck of the corporate airwaves). For instance, where else on TV (where for better or worse most people get their info about the world), are you going to find a documentary criticizing the role of private warriors in Iraq? For more on that show check out Frontline: Private Warriors

In the last class that I showed Amy Goodman's documentary Independent Media in a Time of War I asked my 25 students how many of them had heard of Amy Goodman and 5 said they had heard her broadcasts for Democracy Now. All five of these students had heard it on the afternoon local NPR radio station (two on their own and three when there parents were playing the station) and none of them knew that you could access the show online for free. What will be lost through the defunding of this important public resource?


PBS TV Station President Warns CPB Funding Cuts Will Launch "Spiral of Death for Public Broadcasting"
Special Report by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to drastically cut
funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We host a roundtable
discussion on the continuing fight over public broadcasting in this country
with the presidents of two PBS stations as well as Jeff Chester of the
Center for Digital Democracy.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Norman Mailer: Superman Comes to the Supermarket

"America's politics would now be also America's favourite movie, America's first soap opera, America's best-seller."

Mailer, Norman. Superman Comes to the Supermarket Esquire (November 1960)


Once There Was a New Journalism

Prize Writer

Friday, June 17, 2005

Katha Pollitt: Brooklyn Professor in Godless Shocker

(Courtesy of Henri Mensonge)

Brooklyn Professor in Godless Shocker
by Katha Pollitt
The Nation


As long as a believer ascribes his views to his faith, he can say anything he wants and if you don't like it, you're the bigot. Simplistic as Shortell's essay is, it does raise a useful point: Faith and morality are not only not the same, as Americans like to think, they express contradictory impulses. I believe Kierkegaard said something along these lines in Fear and Trembling in his discussion of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Or as the physicist Steven Weinberg put it more recently: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Would Weinberg be too "offensive" for CUNY?

The Tim Shortell case is not a blip, even at CUNY. Around the same time it went after Shortell, the Sun ran a front-page story accusing Priya Parmar, a young untenured professor in Brooklyn College's School of Education, of attacking standard English as "the language of oppressors," based on a reading assignment and complaints from two students accused of plagiarism. Under the guise of depoliticizing academia, David Horowitz is pushing the "Academic Bill of Rights," which would empower state legislatures to mandate "balance" in the classroom. His website invites students to report their teachers for such sins as "introduced controversial material," "mocked political/religious figures" and the ever-popular "biased grading."

Entire Article

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Amy Goodman: Crackdown on Dissent in Ethiopa

Crackdown on Dissent in Ethiopia
Report by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now

Following last month's elections, Ethiopian security forces are cracking down on protests against alleged fraud. We speak to Human Rights Watch about police violence and a peace agreement that aims to address election-related complaints.

Watch/Listen/Read this report

Melody Berger's F-Word

I was sent this email from Melody Berger. It looks like a great project. I just got done reading an interview with Bitch, from the music group Bitch & Animal, a Dialogic favorite!



My name is Melody Berger and I'm a senior majoring in Women's Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. This past year I created a feminist magazine for teens/young women, and our first issue is online now!

Check it out:


(and forward zee link like mad, por favor? linking is nice too...)

And, yes, as the subject line indicates... a couple of days ago the National Review featured the F-WORD on one of their blogs, with a little directive for everyone to get really pissed off about it. I feel validated as an activist now. :-)

Please help me spread the word!


Query: Seeking Opinions About Film

(I'm developing a film course and thinking about possible movies to be used in the course--here are some themes for classes and films I'm thinking about--I would appreciate any comments, suggestions or complaints--feel free to suggest films, new themes, or critical works. Its an introductory film course and I'm going to shape the course around lectures/clips about classics and showings of contemporary examples. What I want to do is give a sense of the development of cinema, its essential function as a profit-making venture, how it reflects social concerns and the basic ways of analysing the art of filmmaking. A third of the course would be about technique/art/business of filmmaking, a third about the genres of film, and third about the historical/social/political power of film. Any suggestion is appreciated, I've already incorporated some suggestions from my last query--thanks to those that responded.)


Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography Directed by Todd McCarthy. American Film Institute, 1992: 95 minutes. {Easily one of the best films I have ever seen about making films. A history of cinematography that is gripping and beautiful—as soon as it was over, I wanted to start from the beginning again.}


But I Am Cheerleader
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Groundhog’s Day
Office Space

Crime (Gangster):

City of God
Gangs of New York
The Godfather
Miller’s Crossing


The Coen Brothers Films
I Heart Huckabees

Digital Film and Special Effects:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Jurassic Park
Sin City


Control Room
The Corporation
Dark Days
Independent Media in a Time of War
Laramie Project
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Super Size Me
The Thin Blue Line
Weather Underground


Being John Malkovich
Fight Club
King Arthur


Night of the Living Dead
Silence of the Lambs

Military Film:

Apocalypse Now
Blackhawk Down
Three Kings

Narrative Structure:

Pulp Fiction
Royal Tennenbaums
Run Lola Run

Science Fiction:

2001: A Space Odyssey
Starship Troopers

Social Realism:

Boys Don’t Cry
Boyz N the Hood
Do the Right Thing
Iron Jawed Angels
Monsoon Wedding
Norma Rae

Teen (High School):

Breakfast Club
Dazed and Confused
Over the Edge


American Cinema: The Western
Ballad of Little Jo
Dead Man

The Scratchies

Finally a series of Blog awards that just might make a little bit of sense. Vote for your favorites:

The Scratchies

What is a Muckraker?

What is a Muckraker?

Eric Schlosser: The Fine Art of Muckraking

Fast Food Nation and McDonaldization

Michelle Leder: How the Other Half Banks

Kembrew Mcleod: Freedom of Expression

Rebecca Solnit: The Silence of the Lambswool Cardigan

What is the Meaning of Radical Democracy?

Daniel Brook: How Sweden Tweaked the Washington Consensus

Eric Schlosser: A Writer’s Life

US Prison Boom

Audio Interview of Wendell Berry

Mark Engler: Six Essays on War and Peace

Why Wendell Berry Matters

Ron Powers: The Apocalypse of Adolescence

T.C. Boyle, Orion, Wendell Berry, Fear, Local Economy, James Howard Kunstler, Prozac, and A Friend of the Earth

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Critical Art Ensemble: When Thought Becomes a Crime

When Taste Politics Meet Terror: The Critical Art Ensemble on Trial

Critical Art Ensemble: Performative Critics of Corporate Bio-Technology Practices

US Government's Attacks on Performance Group Critical Art Ensemble

When Thought Becomes a Crime

US Government Paranoia in Action: FBI Abducts Artist, Seizes Art

Park, Paula. “Buffalo Case Highlights MTAs: Material transfer agreements can be misunderstood or considered an annoyance, say officials.” The Scientist (August 9, 2004)

Critical Art Ensemble's Online Performative Critiques:

Critical Art Ensemble. “Cult of the New Eve.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Flesh Machine.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Gen Terra: Transgenic Solutions for a Greener World.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Society For Reproductive Anachronisms.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “The Therapeutic State.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Critical Art Ensemble, Beatriz da Costa and Claire Pentecost. Contestational Biology.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Critical Art Ensemble, Beatriz da Costa and Shyh-shiun. “Free Range Grain.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Books by Critical Art Ensemble Available Online:

Critical Art Ensemble. Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media. (Autonomedia, 2001)

---. Electronic Civil Disobedience & Other Unpopular Ideas. (Autonomedia, 1996)

---. The Electronic Disturbance (Autonomedia, 2000)

---. Flesh Machine: Cyborgs, Designer Babies and New Eugenic Consciousness. (Autonomedia, 1998)

---. Molecular Invasion. (Autonomedia, 2002)

Action Site Set Up to Help Defend Critical Art Ensemble

Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund

PBS and NPR Threatened

(Courtesy of Melissa Purdue, Brian Okstad and Anna Froula)

Notice from Move On:

You know that email petition that keeps circulating about how Congress is slashing funding for NPR and PBS? Well, now it's actually true. (Really. Check the footnotes if you don't believe us.)

A House panel has voted to eliminate all public funding for NPR and PBS, starting with "Sesame Street," "Reading Rainbow," and other commercial-free children's shows. If approved, this would be the most severe cut in the history of public broadcasting, threatening to pull the plug on Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.

Sign the petition telling Congress to save NPR and PBS:

The Petition

If we can reach 250,000 signatures by the end of the week, we'll put Congress on notice. After you sign the petition, please pass this message along to any friends, neighbors or co-workers who count on NPR and PBS.

The cuts would slash 25% of the federal funding this year -- $100 million -- and end funding altogether within two years [1]. In particular, the loss could kill beloved children's shows like "Sesame Street," "Clifford the Big Red Dog," "Arthur" and "Postcards from Buster." Rural stations and those serving low-income communities might not survive. Other stations would have to increase corporate sponsorships.

This shameful vote is only the latest partisan assault on public TV and radio. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which exists to shield public TV and radio from political pressure, is now chaired by Kenneth Tomlinson, a staunch Republican close to the White House. Tomlinson has already forced one-sided conservative programs on the air, even though Tomlinson's own surveys show that most people consider NPR "fair and balanced" and they actually trust public broadcasting more than commercial network news [2].

Tomlinson also spent taxpayer dollars on a witch hunt to root out "liberal bias," including a secret investigation of Bill Moyers and PBS' popular investigative show, "NOW." Even though the public paid for the investigation, Tomlinson has refused to release the findings [3].

The lawmakers who proposed the cuts aren't just trying to save money in the budget -- they're trying to decimate any news outlets who question those in power. This is an ideological attack on our free press.

Talk about bad timing. Every day brings another story about media consolidation. Radio, TV stations and newspapers are increasingly controlled by a few massive corporate conglomerates trying to maximize profits at the expense of quality journalism. Now more than ever, we need publicly funded media who will ask hard questions and focus on stories that affect real people, instead of Michael Jackson and the runaway bride.

As the House and Senate consider this frightening effort to kill public broadcasting, they need to hear from its owners -- you.

Make Some Noise!

Thank you for all you do,

--Noah, Wes, Jennifer, Eli and the Team
Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

P.S. You can learn more about the threat to public broadcasting from our
friends at Free Press


1. "Public Broadcasting Targeted By House," Washington Post, June 10, 2005

2. "CPB's 'Secrets and Lies': Why the CPB Board Hid its Polls Revealing Broad Public Support for PBS and NPR," Center for Digital Democracy, April
27, 2005

3. "Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases," New York Times, May 2, 2005

More on this proposed legislation:

Public Broadcasting Targeted By House Panel Seeks to End CPB's Funding Within 2 Years

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Deep Throat II Application

An anonyomous comment left this link to an earlier post:

Deep Throat II Application

Al Giordano: Chronology of an Authentic Netwar

(Because he was not posting on the MJ decision, Michael Hawkins had the time to alert his reader to this important report on the Bolivian uprising.)

Bolivia: Chronology of an Authentic Netwar

"In case you blinked – because it all happened so fast – I’ve prepared this summary of the action-packed series of breaking news reports from Luis Gómez and our entire team in Bolivia, and the considerable helping hand lent them from diverse points in our América and around the world.

As during previous hours of crisis, the lies got swatted down, the truths were shone bright, new advances were made in how to wage a popular Netwar, and Authentic Journalists drove, in recent days, the coverage of most Commercial Media organizations to be more truthful than ever before when reporting events in Latin America…"

Check out more reports from the NarcoSphere

Morgan Spurlock: 30 Days

(Courtesy of Andy Johnson and Melissa Purdue)

Andy says:

Teaching anything related to living wage, poverty, class, business?

If so, you might want to watch 30 DAYS tonight (Wednesday) at 10:00pm on FX Channel. In this episode (the premiere), Morgan Spurlock (of SUPER SIZE ME) and his wife try to live on minimum wage for 30 days. Subsequent episodes feature a Christian living with a Muslim family for 30 days, and other such challenges.

The "Minimum Wage" episode should be a great resource for those of you using NICKEL & DIMED in your classes. It might come in handy, too, for all of us when we finish our PhDs and go on the job market. "Yes, I'm Dr. Johnson; would you like fries with that?"

Find out more about the show here:

30 Days

Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael's Mega Film Resource Site

Michael Benton has just started a film resource site (it is under construction and a work in progress). He would be interested in suggestions, sources and film reviews (he's going to develop it as a resource for his students and the online community-at-large):

Michael's Mega Film Resource Site

Frank Rich: Can Anyone in the Media Make the Connection?

(Courtesy of Harry's post on Spectacle Politics at Scratchings)

Don't Follow the Money
by Frank Rich
New York Times


Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Nor did he come up with the brilliant ideas of putting journalists covertly on the administration payroll and of hiring an outside P.R. firm (Ketchum) to codify an enemies list by ranking news organizations and individual reporters on the basis of how favorably they cover a specific administration policy (No Child Left Behind). President Bush has even succeeded in emasculating the post-Watergate reform that was supposed to help curb Nixonian secrecy, the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

THE journalists who do note the resonances of now with then rarely get to connect those dots on the news media's center stage of television. You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.

Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story. Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.

But in the days that followed, Nixon and his history and the long shadows they cast largely vanished from the TV screen. In their place were constant nostalgic replays of young Redford and flinty Holbrook. Follow the bait-and-switch.

Entire Editorial

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Thinking About Wendell Berry

My students are practicing writing/thinking about authorial perspective this week.

Since all 5 of my students (yes, that is right, I'm actually teaching a writing class with just 5 students!) are from Kentucky, I gathered together a collection of Wendell Berry's online writings for them study in order to understand how an author develops their position through a series of texts and for them to begin learning how to synthesize and respond to a single author's collection of works (in preparation for later, more complex readings/responses on multiple authors writing about important issues)

“The Agrarian Standard.” Orion (2002)

“Christianity and the Survival of Creation.” Cross Currents (Summer 1993)

A Citizen’s Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America.” Orion (March/April 2003)

“Conserving Communities.”

“The Failure of War.” Yes (Winter 2002)

“A Few Words in Favor of Edward Abbey.” (1985)

“For the Love of the Land.” Sierra Magazine (May/June 2002)

“Getting Along With Animals.” The New Farm (September/October 1979):

“Global Problems, Local Solutions.” Resurgence (May/June 2001)

“Health is Membership.” (Delivered as a speech at a conference, "Spirituality and Healing", at Louisville, Kentucky, on October 17, 1994)

“The Idea of a Local Economy.” Orion (2002)

“In Distrust of Movements.” Resurgence (January/February 2000)

“The Joys of Sales Resistance”

“Lest We Forget.” (Excerpt from a Short Story: 1992):

“Life is a Miracle: Classification in Science.” Whole Earth Review (Fall 2000)

“Peaceableness Toward Enemies: Some Notes on the Gulf War.” (1991)

“The Pleasures of Eating.”

“The Prejudice Against Country People.” Progressive (April 2002):

“Private Property and Common Wealth.”

“Thoughts in the Presence of Fear.” Orion (2001)

“Visions for Rural Kentucky.” Whole Earth Review (Winter 1998)

Lannan Readings & Conversations: Wendell Berry with Jack Shoemaker

Wendell Berry: Compromise, Hell!

Wendell Berry: Excerpts from “The Work of Local Culture”

Mark Engler: Why Wendell Berry Matters

T.C. Boyle, Orion, Wendell Berry, Fear, Local Economy, James Howard Kunstler, Prozac, and A Friend of the Earth

Brainwashing Camp For Gay Kids

(Tennesse Guerilla Woman originally posted this at Feminist Blogs)

The leader of the camp "Love in Action":

"I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery."

Read More About Zack's Imprisonment

Former Client of Love in Action Speaks Out

Queer Action Coalition is a blog set up to fight these ministries.

Zack's Blog which stops on the last day nefore he was sent to the camp.

Local Memphis, TN news report on Love in Action:

Scared Straight

Ded Space with some thoughts on the Zach situation

US Casualities Map

(courtesy of Rox Populi who posted it at Feminist Blogs)

Breakdown of the statistics of US Casualities Map

The Happy Tutor: Ordered Liberty in Corporate Life

"Interesting that raping the worker, consumer, and planet are not presented as examples of immorality in corporate life. No, what is immoral is sexual misconduct. A good capitalist keeps it in his pants. His wallet, I mean."

The Happy Tutor on "Ordered Liberty in Corporate Life"

Chris Hedges and Jeff Sharlet: Observing the "Soldiers of Christ"

A couple of days ago I posted about a NOW TV interview featuring Chris Hedges On the Rise to Political Power of the Dominionists which was following up on an earlier post about a pair of excellent articles in the May 2005 issue of Harper's called the The Soldiers of Christ. Now, thanks to a comment from Bill, I have found out that Jeff Sharlet's "Soldiers of Christ I: Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch and Chris Hedges' Soldiers of Christ II: Feeling the hate with the National Religious Broadcasters are now availble online at Harper's website.

These are "must read" essays to understand the "far" right religious control freaks and what their plans are for our country--and why we should be worried!

Also check out an earlier piece in Harper's by Jeff Sharlett in which he examines how the Magic of State is supported by corporate entertainment:

How Clear Channel Programs America

Another must read, is in the June 2005 issue of Harper's, is Karl Meyer's "Forty Years in the Sand," a history of the 20th century British occupation of Iraq and the lessons we should have learned from their experiences ... chilling in the historical similarities.

Harper's magazine is one of the best publications for progressives. Every issue has articles that interest me and I usually read it cover-to-cover. You can't beat a subscription either--12 issues for only $16.97!

BBC News: China Seeks to Eliminate Dissident Blogs

Can they control information like this? I see it as impossible, but I am more concerned about the implications of any success on their part as other, more democratic societies, might find reasons to subject blogs to control for various reasons...

Could blogging become a new symbol of resistance?
(Courtesy of Melissa Purdue)

"China wants more control over blogs: The Chinese government has announced plans to police web forums, chat rooms and blogs alongside other websites."
BBC News


"The authorities hope to push the most outspoken online sites to migrate abroad where they will become inaccessible to those inside China because of the Chinese filtering systems," it added.

Known as the Great Firewall, the filtering system used by the Chinese government is not entirely unbreachable; for every new restriction and technical door that it slams shut, the Chinese people find a hack, a workaround or an entirely new way of communicating.

According to official figures, about 75% of sites have already complied with the new procedure.

In May, many bloggers received e-mails telling them to register or face having their blogs declared illegal.

But one anonymous China-based blogger told Reporters Without Borders that when he phoned the MII to register he was told not to bother because "there was no chance of an independent blog getting permission to publish".

Entire Article

The Daily Show: Is Deep Throat a Hero?

Jon Stewart on judging Deep Throat by the nature of his enemies/critics:

Watch the Video

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Swerve Left on the Patriot Act Hearings

"I just saw something...totally inappropriate. No mic on and no record being kept. But I think as we are lecturing foreign governments about the conduct of their behavior with regard to opposition -- when I see the behavior I saw here today as an American -- I'm really troubled about what kind of lesson this is going to teach to other countries in the world about how they ought to conduct an open society that allows for an opposition with rights. I'm sorry, I'm very offended."

James Zogby of the Arab American Institute, A witness at the Patriot Act hearings on the handling of the event

More from Karlo at Swerve Left

Immanuel Wallerstein: Playing With Fire

Commentary No. 162, June 1, 2005
by Immanuel Wallerstein
"Playing With Fire: the U.S., Iraq, Iran"

When you're a powerful country, it's hard not to play with fire. But the Bush regime has been particularly reckless. Take for example the triangle Iran, Iraq, the United States. The history is well-known. The first famous CIA intervention anywhere was in Iran, way back in 1953. At that time, Iran had a prime minister named Mohamed Mossadegh, a secular middle-class politician who had the audacity to nationalize Iranian oil. The shah went into exile. Great Britain and the U.S. were quite unhappy about this and they backed, indeed inspired, a military coup to arrest Mossadegh and restore the shah to his throne. From then on, the shah's Iran became a close ally of the United States. Shah Reza Pahlevi's regime was authoritarian and very repressive but this didn't bother the U.S. since he was a pillar of pro-U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Finally, the shah's regime was overthrown by a popular uprising in 1979 and the shah went into exile once again. This time the dominant forces turned out to be not secular nationalists but Islamic militants led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. An Islamic republic was proclaimed. And within a year, Iranian militants seized the U.S. embassy and kept those they found there prisoners for 444 days. The U.S., needless to say, was quite unhappy once again. Iran proclaimed the U.S. the Great Satan, and the U.S. in turn now considered Iran a total enemy. President Carter's attempt to liberate the U.S. embassy prisoners by force turned out to be a fiasco. And President Reagan got them out only by making a secret deal, returning frozen Iranian assets for their release.

The U.S. decided the best way to handle the Iranians was to encourage the president of Iraq, one Saddam Hussein, to invade Iran, which he did in 1980. Iran is of course a largely Shia Muslim country. And Iraq has a very large number of Shia Muslims who however have been kept from participation in power by Sunni Arab politicians since Iraq's creation as a modern sovereign state. In 1983, Pres. Reagan sent one Donald Rumsfeld as a special envoy to meet Saddam Hussein, to encourage him in his war efforts, to offer him direct and indirect forms of assistance (including some elements of biological warfare), to remove Iraq from the U.S. list of states aiding terrorist groups, and in general to coddle Saddam. The Iran-Iraq war lasted eight years, was extremely costly to both sides in both casualties and money, and finally ended in exhaustion, with the troops back at the starting-point. It was a military truce, but of course the political enmity persisted.

Saddam Hussein, as we know, found it difficult to repay the debts he had contracted in order to conduct this war, especially Iraq's large debts to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. He decided to cancel the debts and satisfy long-standing nationalist claims in one fell swoop by invading Kuwait in 1990. Now at last the U.S. turned against Saddam Hussein, leading a U.N.-sanctioned coalition to oust Iraq from Kuwait with, among other things, the tacit support of Iran. The war ended with various kinds of double crosses. Saddam had sent much of his air force to Iran to keep it safe from U.S. bombing. After the war ended, Iran refused to return the planes. The Shia in Iraq rose up in rebellion against Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, but the U.S. refused to help them after the truce with Saddam, although the U.S. eventually did enforce a no-fly zone over Shia areas - too late, however, to prevent Saddam from his revenge on the Shia rebels.

Everyone was a bit unhappy with the de facto truce betwen 1991 and 2001. The neo-cons in the U.S. felt that the U.S. had been humiliated by the fact that Saddam remained in power. Saddam was unhappy because of a U.S.-led economic boycott and U.N.-decreed limitations on Iraq's sovereignty concerning the sale of oil. Iraqi Shia (and Kurds) were unhappy because Saddam was still in power, and the U.S. had let them down. And Iran was unhappy because Saddam was still in power, because the Iraqi Shia were still suffering, and because the U.S. was still too much a force in the region.

When September 11 occurred, the neo-cons seized the opportunity to get Bush to focus on a war on Iraq. As we know, the invasion would finally occur in 2003, resulting in the overthrow of Saddam. At the time, George W. Bush denounced the "axis of evil" - a trio of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The U.S. had now decided to be against both the Iraqi and the Iranian regimes simultaneously, but to take on Iraq militarily first. It is quite clear that in 2003 the Bush regime considered it only a matter of time before the U.S. took on Iran.

What President Bush seemed to expect in 2003 is that the U.S. would be able to install, rather rapidly, a friendly regime in Iraq, and then proceed to force a showdown with Iran. What they did not expect was a quite powerful resistance movement in Iraq, one which they now seem unable to contain seriously. What they did not expect was effective political pressure from the Shia to hold early elections that would give the Shia a majority in the government. What they did not expect was that the U.S. military would be so overstretched that there is now no way the U.S. can seriously consider undertaking any kind of military action to change the regime in Iran.

And least of all did they expect that it would be Iran that would be in a position to be the great diplomatic victor of the U.S. invasion. Take what happened on May, 15, 2005. The U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, made an unannounced visit to Baghdad, during which she spent her brief time half scolding, half pleading with the new Iraqi government, and all this is public. She said that the Iraqis should try to be more "inclusive," the code word for making more space for Sunni Arabs in the government. She cautioned against "severe" de-Baathification, meaning the inclusion in power of at least some of those who supported Saddam Hussein. Presumably, Rice thinks this might undermine the resistance to U.S. occupation and make it possible to reduce U.S. troop commitment to Iraq (the better to use them against Iran?). Curious turnaround where the U.S. Secretary of State is pleading on behalf of at least some ex-Baathists. And, as far as one can tell, to half-deaf ears. The analyses of the present Iraqi government, or rather its priorities, seem to be different.

Two days later, the Foreign Minister of Iran, Kamal Khazzeri, arrived for a far more successful four-day visit. He was greeted at the airport by Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, himself a Sunni and a Kurd, who broke into fluent Farsi. After three days, Iraq and Iran signed an agreement to end hostilities between them, in which the new Iraqi government agreed with Iran that the Iraq-Iran war was initiated by Saddam Hussein. The two countries renewed criticisms of Israel. If Bush thinks the new Iraqi government is going to join the U.S. in a crusade against Iran, that other member of the "axis of evil," he clearly has another think coming.

Relations between Iraq and Iran have now become normal, en route to becoming friendly. This is not what the neo-cons had envisaged when they launched the drive for a U.S.-led "democratization" of the Middle East. When the U.S. forces leave Iraq (probably sooner rather than later), Iran will still be around, and (thanks to the U.S.) stronger than ever.

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