Monday, September 26, 2011

Darren Tofts: In My Time of Dying -- The Premature Death of a Film Classic

In My Time of Dying: The Premature Death of a Film Classic
by Darren Tofts


The concept to make a feature film that captured the energy of a Zeppelin live performance emerged during the band’s historic 1973 US tour. Peter Whitehead’s and Stanley Dorfman’s film of Led Zeppelin’s 1970 concert at the Royal Albert Hall dramatically revealed how powerful, even on film, Led Zeppelin were in performance; it had whet many appetites, so expectations were high when American director Joe Massot convinced Peter Grant to engage his services. Apart from the usual challenges associated with any film project, particularly one that involves shooting live footage, Massot’s greatest problem was having to deal with Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin. ‘Problematic’ hardly captures the fraught nature of his attempts to engage his employers to co-operate with a project to which, by the time filming was to start, they seemed entirely indifferent.

Massot’s idea was to shoot the offstage interludes in 16mm and the concert footage in 35mm, to contrast and showcase the spectacle of the performance. He succeeded in capturing footage from three out of five shows in July 1973 at Madison Square Garden in New York , in order to select the best performances of each of the thirteen songs to create the impression of a complete show. Later in the year he followed the band to England to shoot establishing shots of the band at their respective homes before being sacked by Led Zeppelin’s management on the grounds that, in Peter Grant’s word, ‘it wasn’t really what we had intended’. (9) With the project in complete disarray, Australian director Peter Clifton, while in transit to Jamaica to make a film about reggae, received the summons from Grant to drop everything and salvage the film. His first words to his new employers, having assessed the raw footage shot by Massot, were not encouraging: ‘We need to re-shoot the show’. (10) And this is where things really get fucked up.

‘None of the material ... actually created sequences’, Clifton advised Grant. (11) Problems of continuity in terms of cutaways and establishing shots were compounded by gaps and missing verses in particular songs (there was no complete version of the climactic ‘Whole Lotta Love’, for instance). And despite Massot’s explicit instructions, John Paul Jones neglected to wear the same clothes on each of the nights that were to be filmed. Clifton’s solution was to suggest the ultimate imposture when it comes to live concert footage: re-stage the entire Madison Square Garden set at Shepperton Studios in Surrey and film it in its totality.

Now let’s just pause for a moment. We’re talking about a band that observed strict principles of integrity to preserve the purity of their music. They never gave interviews nor advertised their concert dates and had resisted frequent offers to appear on Top of the Pops on the grounds that they would have to mime to their own songs. Now here they are in 1974, at the height of their powers and on the verge of releasing their monumental Physical Graffiti double album, acquiescing to Clifton’s suggestion that the only way to save The Song Remains the Same is to play along to pre-recorded songs from the New York gigs in a fabulatory performance of a consistent and complete concert; what music journalist Cameron Crowe would refer to as the ‘total event’ in his liner notes to the film’s soundtrack LP. Clifton attempted to sell this act of creative deceit to the band: ‘If you are prepared to take the bits of Madison Square Garden including a couple of incredible action shots, I’ll play you the soundtracks, project the bits on a huge screen in front of you and we’ll put the cameras between you and the screen. When the shots come on, the soundtrack will be right, you’ll play along and I’ll shoot again’. (12)

So, in secrecy worthy of a le Carré novel, Led Zeppelin played alongside their filmic avatars as the ultimate cover band. Only coming to light in recent years, this is surely the most closely guarded fraud of the twentieth century, with the possible exception of the television coverage of the landing on the Moon in 1969 and the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In a recent interview in Uncut magazine, Jimmy Page fessed up that ‘I’m sort of miming at Shepperton to what I’d played at Madison Square Garden, but of course, although I’ve got a rough approximation of what I was playing from night to night, it’s not exact. So the film that came out in the ‘70s is a bit warts-and-all’. (13) However, when you watch the film there is a curious sequence in the Theremin interlude in ‘Whole Lotta Love’ that features mirror images of both Page and Plant as if they are copying themselves.

Who knows if this is simply a happy accident or an embedded clue for hermeneutic posterity, akin to the myriad leitmotifs and enigmas that James Joyce wove into the deeply nuanced texturality of Ulysses; a formalist sublime that the author himself asserted was designed to ‘keep the Professors busy for centuries’.

Sixteen years after Zeppelin performed to Zeppelin, Milli Vanilli were forced to return their Best New Artist Grammy for lip-synching to themselves the year before. One wonders what Jorge Luis Borges, the grand master of the hyperreal, would have made of Zeppelin’s charade, for surely it would have been for him the most sublime inversion of his notion of exactitude in science, whereby the territory would now completely cover the map. Kathleen Carroll, reviewing the film in the New York Daily News, was clearly not fooled by the deception, referring to the film as ‘a hopelessly pretentious piece of trash ... in what is laughably called a performance’. (14)

The manufacturing of illusion within the film also extended beyond the on-stage performances. The dramatic sequence of the band disembarking from their jet straight into a police escorted convoy of Limos that whisks them to Madison Square Garden was filmed in Pittsburgh the week before. And if all that fakery was not enough, it was once again the bassist, for the nth time in the history of rock, who was the odd man out and threatened to blow the conceit. John Paul Jones had recently cut his hair and was forced to wear a wig to resemble the way he looked a year ago. If you watch ‘Whole Lotta Love’ closely you can see the rug in all its glory. How do the lyrics go again? Something about ‘baby, I’m not foolin’’?

The quote from Ecclesiastes that prefaces Jean Baudrillard’s Simulations may well be a fitting epitaph for The Song Remains the Same: ‘The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none’. (15) But it is also apposite to Jimmy Page’s remastered edition of the film in surround sound that was released in November 2007. A variation on the Director’s Cut genre of DVD, this version of the film was especially notable for the high quality of its sound; the surround sound mix was designed to generate a greater sense of immersive presence for the home theatre experience. In fact this version of the film is the first time in its history that the soundtrack and the images were correctly synched. (16) It was this achievement of situating the listener in the crowd at the concert, ‘from the ultimate vantage point’, that Cameron Crowe argued was the singular experience of the original vinyl LP.

To Read the Entire Essay

The Black Angels: Call to Arms

Chris Cornell: Seasons

Occupy Wall St September 24

Second week -- police facing peaceful protestors decide to mace and attack them.

Steven Colbert: On the Hypocrisy of Our Christian Nation

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scott McLemee: CLR James and African American Liberation

CLR James and African American Liberation
Scott McLemee, editor of the collection C.L.R. James and Revolutionary Marxism
We Are Many

To Listen to the Presentation

War News Radio: State of Privilege

State of Privilege
War News Radio (Swarthmore College)

This week on War News Radio, we investigate the privileges enjoyed by Iraqi government officials. Kyle Crawford reports.

Then, we take a look at the lives of Iraqi detainees who spent time at the infamous Abu Ghraib Detention Facility. Emily Crawford has the story.

Finally, we speak to an Iraqi whose father, an important figure in Iraq, was kidnapped in 2006. Karim Sariahmed reports.

To Listen to the Episode

Vanessa Houlder, Megan Murphy and Jeff Gerth: IRS, U.S. Banks at Odds Over $1 Billion in Tax Credits from Barclays Deals

IRS, U.S. Banks at Odds Over $1 Billion in Tax Credits from Barclays Deals
By Vanessa Houlder, Megan Murphy and Jeff Gerth
Pro Publica

This story was co-published with The Financial Times.

U.S. District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz of Minnesota is an educated man. He earned his law degree from Harvard, won a coveted clerkship for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and taught the law for more than a decade before joining the bench in 2006.

But when Wells Fargo, the retail banking giant, and the U.S. Justice Department squared off in his courtroom last year over the legality of a fiendishly complicated tax scheme known as “STARS,’’ even Schiltz quickly realized he was not equipped to parse the facts.

“I fear I may finally have met my match,” the judge told the court. “We may need a translator in this case, someone who can help us to understand these complex transactions and understand the complex tax laws to put this into English for us.”

He is not alone. The growth of an arcane, intellectually demanding area of high finance that generated hundreds of millions of dollars for banks and multinational companies is being dissected from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., as the U.S. government pursues what it calls tax avoidance fueled by the use of artificial foreign-tax credits.

STARS – short for “structured trust advantaged repackaged securities” – were deals between U.S. banks and Barclays, one of the U.K.’s premier banks in London, that have come under particular scrutiny in bankruptcy, tax, district and claims courts.

At issue in the cases is whether the transactions had a legitimate business purpose or were designed specifically to generate improper U.S. tax credits.

Barclays emerged as a key player in creating strategies that worked asymmetries in tax systems. In the STARS deals in question, Barclays realized at least $800 million in tax savings from the U.K. government — benefits it shared with other parties in the deals, according to an analysis of U.S. court and Internal Revenue Service documents by the Financial Times and ProPublica.

Six U.S. banks — BB&T, Bank of New York Mellon, Sovereign (now a unit of Banco Santander), Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and Wachovia (now a Wells Fargo subsidiary) — have been battling the government over tax credits they claimed through STARS. In one instance, government lawyers said STARS permitted BB&T to claim $1 in foreign tax credits for every 50 cents in tax, “grossly exploiting the tax laws.’’

BB&T, based in North Carolina, responded in court that it participated “to maximize profits’’ and not “to avoid or evade’’ taxes.

The U.S. banks all contend their deals had economic substance because Barclays provided them with billions in financing at below-market costs. But each arrangement involved a complex set of transactions, including creation of a trust and multiple subsidiaries, which also provided significant tax breaks.

The U.S. government, in recent court filings, contends that STARS was a highly complex tax-shelter transaction used by the U.S. banks to generate foreign tax credits. In court filings, government lawyers allege that the BB&T and Wells Fargo deals were a “sham.’’ In Wells Fargo’s case, they assert that STARS was designed so the U.S. bank’s “entire economic profit would be totally and exclusively sourced from U.S. foreign tax credits.’’

Wells Fargo says in court papers that its deal with Barclays was a lawful way to obtain reduced-cost financing for its ordinary business.

The U.S. banks involved in pending cases declined to comment. Washington Mutual has settled, agreeing in bankruptcy court last year to forgo $160 million in claimed tax credits. The other U.S. banks are seeking repayment for disallowed tax credits totaling more than $1 billion.

Barclays is not a party to the cases and declined to discuss client matters or comment on its U.K. tax savings. ``Barclays complies with taxation laws in the U.K. and all the countries where we do business,'' the bank said in a statement Sunday.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Trevor Hogg: Drawn to Anime -- A Hayao Miyazaki Profile

Drawn to Anime: A Hayao Miyazaki Profile
by Trevor Hogg
Flickering Myth


For the debut production of the fledgling animation studio, Hayao Miyazaki wrote in the original story proposal dated December 7, 1984 that, “If Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind [1984] is a film for older audiences then Pazu is targeted mainly at elementary school-aged children. If Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was designed to be cool, clear, and vivid, then Pazu will aim to be a fun, intensely thrilling classic action film.” The project was rechristened, Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta (Laputa: Castle in the Sky, 1986) in honour of the “floating island in the sky, depicted in the third part of Gulliver’s Travels.” Summarizing the story which takes place around the time of steam engines, the animator stated, “A man [Muska] schemes to get hold of the levitation crystal, becomes the head of an empire in the sky, and thus lords it over the world. A girl [Sheeta], a descendent of ancient Laputa royalty, finds herself pursued by the man. And a boy [Pazu], an apprentice mechanic who dreams of becoming an inventor, becomes entangled in the struggle over the mysterious levitation crystal.”

To research the setting of the tale, an international scouting expedition was deemed necessary. “Isao Takahata said that if we were going to set the film in the days of the Industrial Revolution, we probably should go to England. We got all exited about the idea of going to see the coal mines in Wales and the apple blossoms in Sussex along the coast south of London, and we decided to actually go.” The trip occurred while Britain was engaged in an infamous mining strike under the reign of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “In the film there is a somewhat forced scene showing Pazu’s boss and Charles getting into a fight and involving the whole town, and I don’t think we would have included a scene like that if we hadn’t visited the area. I felt a real sense of solidarity with the mine workers!”

“I personally find airplanes cool and I love flying scenes. But despite Castle in the Sky being set in the sky, it really has few real flying scenes,” acknowledged Hayao Miyazaki who has himself a major supporter in John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer for Disney and Pixar. “In all of his films he gives us an incredible sense of scale,” admired Lasseter. “Castle in the Sky, especially, is a masterpiece in this way. Take another look at those flying ships. There is no question that they’re huge. And you can just tell that they weigh an enormous amount too. I mean, look at them, you can feel their weight. It’s not just perspective. It’s movement, it’s size, it’s weight.”

“I wanted to show the military as large-as-life as possible, because no matter what Pazu tried, there was no way he could ever have won against them,” said Hayao Miyazaki. “We had to draw them as solidly as possible. Even Dola and her gang could never have beaten the military head-on. Pirates don’t argue with the military, and besides, in this case our pirates only had flaptors. I don’t like the military, so I drew their nastier side.” As for the portrayal of robots in the picture, the animator observed, “Humans make machines the extension of their own hands, but at the same time we make something that will give us unlimited devotion. It’s too simplistic to consider them living beings, but I feel that we are making things that could be prototypes for living creatures.” Miyazaki added, “I think that honour and bravery are very important in the relations of people. But I’m sure that these qualities are not exclusive to human beings.”

The anime artist wanted to break movie genre conventions when depicting the levitation crystal. “In science fiction stories, the core section of an object like this would often be depicted as something like a nuclear reactor,” explained Miyazaki. “We agreed that wouldn’t be very interesting, though, and eventually wound up with the design seen in the film. Then we began discussing the idea of having a levitation crystal with tubes running out of it, but that seemed weird too. So we wound up with tree roots wrapping themselves around the crystal.” Another major story element had to be addressed. “Right around the time we were trying to come up with a good ending, and we were afraid that if Laputa flew off into the sky that children watching the film would be afraid that the little animals like the foxes and squirrels would all die. So that settled how we decided to end the story the way we did. We told ourselves it was okay because the story is set in an age before people went into space in the Apollo program, so nobody really knew what the view would be like from what is in effect an artificial satellite.”

Laputa: Castle in the Sky served as significant influence on the 1998 sophomore effort by Pixar Animation Studios. “In A Bug’s Life,” began John Lasseter, “the character Flick assembles all the bugs together in an attempt to save a little ant named Dot. For reference, we sat down and studied the rescue sequence in Castle in the Sky very carefully. We didn’t copy it, but we tried to pick the scene apart to identify why it worked so well. I know what’s going to happen. Of course, she [Sheeta] gets rescued. I know that. But every time I see it, I get the chills. It inspired us.” Admired by film critics the movie established Studio Ghibli’s international reputation though the modest box office returns meant that the company had yet to achieve financial independence when developing future projects.

Having trouble to secure financing for the movie deemed to be childish and lacking in conflict, a compromise was reached when Studio Ghibli agreed to also adapt the semi-autobiographical Naoki Prize-winning Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies,1988) by Japanese novelist Akiyuki Nosaka. In the project plan dated December 1, 1986, Hayao Miyazaki wrote, “My Neighbour Totoro aims to be a happy and heartwarming film, a film that lets the audience go home with pleasant, glad feelings. Lovers will feel each other to be more precious, parents will fondly recall their childhoods, and children will start exploring the thickets behind shrines and climbing trees to find a totoro.”

Explaining the storyline, the animator stated, “Satsuki, a third grader, and Mei, five years old, move to the outskirts of town. They are awaiting their mother’s release from the hospital in a house where the air is clean. Kanta, a boy from the neigbouring farmer’s house, tries to frighten Satsuki by claiming that the house is haunted. And he is right. While playing in the yard, Mei is surprised to find a pair of strange creatures about her height, walking in front of her. Goblins… Mei follows them.” Nicknamed by Mei, totoros are mysterious beings that can live for a thousand years and grow over two meters tall; the creatures as described by Miyazaki are “covered in fluffy fur, they look like giant owls or badgers or bears. You can say they are goblins, but they don’t frighten people as they live an easygoing, carefree manner. They inhabit caves and hollows of old trees in the forest and cannot be seen by humans. But for some reason they are spied by the young sisters Satsuki and Mei.”

“I didn’t have a close relationship with my mother like Satsuki,” revealed Hayo Mizayaki. “I was overly self-conscious, and my mother was that way too. When I went to see her in the hospital, I couldn’t rush to hug her. It’s natural for Satsuki to feel a bit shy and not go directly to her mother’s side. Then what would Satsuki’s mother do? She might brush Satsuki’s hair or something. That’s one way she could show physical affection. That is what gives Satsuki support.” Regarding the scene in which Mei disappears and her older sister goes looking for her, the moment was derived from an actual event. “Once we went to a festival and my little brother didn’t make it home with the rest of us; fearing that he had been taken by someone, we all split up to search for him…I still recall how I felt when I thought we might not find him…It’s episodes like this that make up this film. There’s no need for a plot. I wish I could have made a ninety-minute film. If I could have, I would have expanded the section on Satasuki and Mei’s everyday lives.”

To Read the Entire Essay

Films We Would Like To See #10: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (USA/Sweden/UK/Germany: David Fincher, 2011)

I was very skeptical about an American remake, but this trailer looks very good.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New York Times: The Great Prosperity 1947-1979; The Great Regression 1980 - Now

Link to the Full Size Image

Films We Would Like to See #9: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (China/Hong Kong: Tsui Hark, 2010)

Fall 2009 Bluegrass Film Society Schedule

[archiving an old post at another site]

(To get more info about the films visit the Internet Movie Database)

Fall 2009 Bluegrass Film Society schedule
Bluegrass Community and Technical College
Wednesdays: 7:30pm, Main Auditorium, Oswald Building, Free

August 19 (Special showing at Al’s Bar on 6th and Limestone at 7PM)
Repo Man (USA: Alex Cox, 1984: 92 mins)
The second film from iconoclastic British filmmaker Alex Cox has been claimed by many to be the greatest punk film. Cox, who would later make other punk classics like Sid and Nancy (1986) and Straight to Hell (1987), fully embraces the “punk” ethos in Repo Man with “no-future” youths, desolate Los Angeles landscapes, dangerous science running amok, and a morally bankrupt consumer society.

August 26: The Castle (Austria: Michael Haneke, 1997: 123 mins)
Austrian director Haneke’s adaption of Franz Kafka’s classic novel of bureaucratic absurdities and human alienation. The film was originally produced for Austrian TV.

September 2: The Taste of Tea (Japan: Katsuhito Ishii, 2004: 143 mins)

A surreal comedic look at the daily experiences of the Haruno family. As one character says: “We were all watching the sunset, at the edge of the universe.”

September 9: Sans Soleil (France: Chris Marker, 1983: 100 mins)
Chris Marker is revered as a seminal documentary filmmaker and a visionary artist. Although he is best known in the USA for his short film La Jetee (an homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and inspiration for Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys), many critics consider Sans Soleil, a documentary meditation on time, history, travel and images, to be his true masterpiece.

September 16: Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary (Canada: Guy Maddin, 2003: 75 mins)

A true original, no one makes films like Guy Maddin. This is Maddin’s film version of the Winnipeg Royal Ballet’s production of the classic horror mythos of Dracula. This visually stunning, silent film was originally made for Canadian TV (CBC), but critical acclaim led to an American theatrical release.

September 23: The Drummer (Hong Kong/Taiwan: Kenneth Bi, 2007: 118 mins)
The rebellious son a Triad boss has to hide in the countryside from a rival boss’ vengeance. While in hiding he is introduced to the rigorous life and practices of Zen drummers and he develops a new sense of the world. His new life eventually comes into conflict with his old life. A Film Movement selection.

September 30: Pusher (Denmark: Nicolas Winding Refn, 1996: 105 mins)
Pusher is notable for launching director Nicolas Winding Refn’s career, but even more importantly, for me, it brought the great Danish actor Mads Mikkelson (star of Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding) onto the international scene. A dark, naturalistic exploration of Copenhagen’s drug underworld; it was a huge success in Denmark and internationally.

October 14: Battles Without Honor & Humanity (Japan: Kinji Fukasaku, 1973: 99 mins)
Fukasaku is probably best known in the USA as the director of the controversial dystopian Battle Royale (2000). In Japan though he is revered for his crime film epic Battles Without Honor & Humanity (released in the USA as the 5 DVD set The Yakuza Papers). This stand alone first film in the series is shot documentary style and explores the criminal organization of ex-soldiers in post-War Hiroshima. The film was based upon a series of journalistic articles by Kōichi Iiboshi.

October 21: 24 Hour Party People (United Kingdom: Michael Winterbottom, 2002: 117 mins)
Winterbottom is a jack-of-all-genres in the film world. From film to film, his style changes and perhaps this is why he is not as celebrated as some of his British peers. In this film he struck gold with an exploration of the creative madness of the Manchester music explosion (1976 – 1992) unleashed in the aftermath of the 1976 Sex Pistols concert in the Lesser Free Trade Hall.

October 28: Bab’Aziz: The Prince Who Contemplated His Soul (Tunisia: Nacer Khemir, 2005: 96 mins)
A true feast for the senses, this film takes us into the stories and culture of Tunisia. A blind dervish grandfather and his curious granddaughter wander the stunning desert landscape seeking out a grand reunion of dervishes that happens only once every 30 years. To occupy their time the grandfather tells his granddaughter a magical story and as more people join them they add stories of their own.

November 4: Pixote (Brazil: Hector Babenco, 1981: 128 mins)
Realistic film that powerfully explores the life of a street kid in Sao Paolo. Babenco uses a documentary style, with non-professional actors (many of them street kids), and a naturalistic tone, to portray the struggle of these street kids to build a semblance of family in a world set on eliminating them one way or another.

November 11: The City (USA: David Riker, 1998: 88 mins)
A black and white, multi-thread narrative, about four different immigrants in New York City. Filmed over a period of years and developed with the actors playing the roles, this is a true American independent film. David Riker is the writer of the recently released Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera: 2008) which has been getting attention for its science fictional exploration of globalization and trade.

November 18: Sex and Lucia (Spain: Julio Medem, 2001: 128 mins)
Acclaimed director Julio Medem’s visually stunning exploration of sex, relationships and eroticism. Medem constructs a complex metanarrative that challenges the viewer to bring their own understanding into play with the film’s structure in order to make sense of the imaginative, dreamlike, erotic events.

November 25: The Quiet Family (South Korea: Ji-woon Kim, 1998: 105 mins)
Ji-Woon Kim has received considerable attention for his suggestive, moody horror flick A Tale of Two Sisters (2003). His first film The Quiet Family is also playing in the horror genre, but unlike the darkly sinister A Tale of Two Sisters, The Quiet Family is a darkly comic extravaganza.

December 2: The Edge of Heaven (Germany/Turkey: Fatih Akin, 2007: 122 min)
One of my favorite discoveries last year was Fatih Akin’s unconventional romance Head-On (2004). The film was also a favorite of my students and I have been looking forward to seeing his next film. As a treat I saved this one for last!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Petrino DiLeo: An Economic History of the Great Depression

An Economic History of the Great Depression
With Petrino DiLeo
We Are Many

To Listen to the Talk

War News Radio: Peter Singer on Drone Warfare

Peter Singer on Drone Warfare
War News Radio (Swarthmore College)

Drone warfare to combat terrorism has increased sharply in recent years. Where are we headed with these robotics of war? In this uncut interview, War News Radio's Elliana Bisgaard-Church speaks to Peter W. Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative, senior fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institute, and author of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, about the topic.

To Listen to the Interview

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lee Fang: Yahoo Appears To Be Censoring Email Messages About Wall Street Protests (Updated)

Yahoo Appears To Be Censoring Email Messages About Wall Street Protests (Updated)
by Lee Fang
Reader Supported News

Thinking about e-mailing your friends and neighbors about the protests against Wall Street happening right now? If you have a Yahoo e-mail account, think again. ThinkProgress has reviewed claims that Yahoo is censoring e-mails relating to the protest and found that after several attempts on multiple accounts, we too were prevented from sending messages about the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations.

Over the weekend, thousands gathered for a “Tahrir Square”-style protest of Wall Street’s domination of American politics. The protesters, organized online and by organizations like Adbusters, have called their effort “Occupy Wall Street” and have set up the website: However, several YouTube users posted videos of themselves trying to email a message inviting their friends to visit the Occupy Wall St campaign website, only to be blocked repeatedly by Yahoo.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Films We Would Like To See #8: Armadillo (Denmark: Janus Metz Pedersen, 2010)

Releasing on DVD in the USA in October:

Thoughts About Dogtooth (Greece: Giorgos Lanthimos, 2009)

(Initiated by a response from Amy Edgell)

Dogtooth operates like a fairy tale or a parable, it is not a direct representation of reality, it is more designed to get us to reflect on social issues/problems/practices that are generally hard for us to understand because they are such part of our naturalized everyday lives.

While we could consider Dogtooth to be about "isolated" communities, we don't have to necessarily directly relate it to such an absolute environment. It should also give us pause in thinking about how we, in our mainstream social realities, attempt to isolate, manipulate, ignore and distort the realities about the world out of a fear for the results of hidden truths. In fact we could even apply it to many broader social institutions/groups/practices (religion, schools, universities, governments, sex education, corporations, official histories, etc... ) that practice what the father does in this tale. Likewise, not so different from the children in Dogtooth, what kind of stunted, illusionary, or, even dangerous, people are produced by institutions/groups/practices based on deception, ignorance and manipulation?

Amy Goodman: Troy Davis and the Politics of Death

Troy Davis and the Politics of Death
By Amy Goodman

Death brings cheers these days in America. In the most recent Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, hypothetically, if a man who chose to carry no medical insurance, then was stricken with a grave illness, should be left to die, cheers of “Yeah!” filled the hall. When, in the prior debate, Gov. Rick Perry was asked about his enthusiastic use of the death penalty in Texas, the crowd erupted into sustained applause and cheers. The reaction from the audience prompted debate moderator Brian Williams of NBC News to follow up with the question, “What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”

That “dynamic” is why challenging the death sentence to be carried out against Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on Sept. 21 is so important. Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for close to 20 years after being convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah. Since his conviction, seven of the nine nonpolice witnesses have recanted their testimony, alleging police coercion and intimidation in obtaining the testimony. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the murder.

Last March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Davis should receive an evidentiary hearing, to make his case for innocence. Several witnesses have identified one of the remaining witnesses who has not recanted, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, as the shooter. U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. refused, on a technicality, to allow the testimony of witnesses who claimed that, after Davis had been convicted, Coles admitted to shooting MacPhail. In his August court order, Moore summarized, “Mr. Davis is not innocent.”

One of the jurors, Brenda Forrest, disagrees. She told CNN in 2009, recalling the trial of Davis, “All of the witnesses—they were able to ID him as the person who actually did it.” Since the seven witnesses recanted, she says: “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. The verdict would be not guilty.”

Troy Davis has three major strikes against him. First, he is an African-American man. Second, he was charged with killing a white police officer. And third, he is in Georgia.

More than a century ago, the legendary muckraking journalist Ida B. Wells risked her life when she began reporting on the epidemic of lynchings in the Deep South. She published “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases” in 1892 and followed up with “The Red Record” in 1895, detailing hundreds of lynchings. She wrote: “In Brooks County, Ga., Dec. 23, while this Christian country was preparing for Christmas celebration, seven Negroes were lynched in twenty-four hours because they refused, or were unable to tell the whereabouts of a colored man named Pike, who killed a white man ... Georgia heads the list of lynching states.”

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Re:sound #128: The Willie McGee Show

#128: The Willie McGee Show
Re:sound (Third Coast International Audio Festival)

A conversation between Joe Richman and Bridgette McGee-Robinson
from the 2010 Third Coast Filmless Festival

Joe Richman (of Radio Diaries) and Bridgette McGee-Robinson joined us at the Third Coast Filmless Festival in March 2010 to discuss Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair, a documentary-in-progress. They gave listener's a rare glimpse behind the scenes, sharing their thoughts and experiences in the researching, planning, and production of their story.

The two teamed up to tell the story of Bridgette's grandfather, Willie McGee, a black man who was accused of raping a white woman in Mississippi in 1945. Despite appeals from Albert Einstein, Paul Robeson, and William Faulkner, McGee was executed in Mississippi's traveling electric chair (the only one of its kind) six years later.

Bridgette grew up knowing almost nothing about her grandfather, but now she's on a quest to unearth everything she can about his life -- and his death.

To Listen to the Episode

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Cheated Hearts

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Tubes: Brighter Day

CFP: Kentucky Bonner Forum 11/4 - 11/6, 2011

Call for Proposals
Kentucky Bonner Forum
Nov. 4th-6th, 2011

Proposals due by: October 5, 2011

Notifications of acceptance by: October 12, 2011

The Kentucky Bonner Forum is a weekend-long networking and educational opportunity for students from the six Kentucky colleges with a Bonner Program (Berea College, Centre College, Lindsey Wilson College, Transylvania University, Union College, and the University of Louisville), in addition to other regional Bonner Programs, about issues affecting our state and local communities. The first annual Kentucky Bonner Forum will be held on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, from Friday, Nov. 4th to Sunday, November 6th, 2011.

The Bonner Program offers financial aid for college students in exchange for 8-10 hours a week of dedicated service to nonprofits in their communities. As part of the program, students receive training in the six common commitments of community building, civic engagement, diversity, international perspectives, spiritual exploration, and social justice.

As part of this forum, we are seeking proposals for workshops, presentations, and discussions on issues of interest to Bonner students. There will be four blocks of 75-minute sessions on Saturday, November 5th.

We are especially interested in receiving proposals on the following topics. Please note that proposals making connections between these issues and the state of Kentucky will be given priority.

Environment (including coal, energy, and mountaintop removal; food security; sustainable agriculture; and water quality);
Economic justice (including poverty, homelessness, and labor rights);
Immigration, race, and multiculturalism;
Health, public health, and health care;
Gender, sexuality, and sex education;
Nonprofit management and community organizing (including training in grant writing, policy research, event planning, needs assessment, and communication skills).

To apply, please fill out and submit the application form, as well as the registration form, by Wednesday, October 5th, 2011. Applicants will receive notice of acceptance by the following Wednesday, October 12th. For questions, please contact

Jon Davis: Preliminary Report from the Committee on Appropriate Postures for the Suffering

(via Kristopher Reisz)

Preliminary Report from the Committee on Appropriate Postures for the Suffering

by Jon Davis

We who wear clean socks and shoes are tired

of your barefoot complaining, your dusty footprints

on our just-cleaned rugs. Tired, too of your endless ploys—

the feigned amputations, the imaginary children

you huddle with outside the malls, your rags and bottles,

the inconvenient positions you assume. Though we remain

impressed by your emaciation and your hunger and,

frankly, find you photogenic and think your images

both alarming and aesthetically pleasing, to do anything

more than sigh will require a complex process

of application and review, a process that is currently

in the development stage. Meanwhile, may we suggest

you moderate your public suffering at least

until the Committee on Appropriate Postures for the Suffering

is able to produce guidelines. Do not be alarmed.

The committee has asked me to assure you

that they are sensitive both to the aesthetic qualities

of your suffering—the blank stares, the neotonous beauty

as the flesh recedes and the eyes seem to grow larger,

the haloes of flies—and to the physical limitations

of human endurance and the positioning of limbs.

They will, I am certain, ask that you not lift

your naked children like offerings to the gods.

On this topic, discussion has centered around the unfair

advantage such ploys give the parents of such children.

The childless, whether by choice or fate, are left

to wither silently in the doorways while those with children

proffer and gesticulate in the avenues unabated.

This offends our cherished sense of fairness,

the democratic impulse that informs and energizes

our discussions. Therefore, we ask for restraint,

and where restraint is lacking, we will legislate.

Please be forewarned. In addition, the committee

will recommend that the shouting of slogans,

whether directed at governments or deities, be kept

to a minimum. Not only is such shouting displeasing

aesthetically, but it suggests there is something

to be done. Believe me, no one is more acutely aware

of your condition than we who must ignore it everyday
on our way to the capitol. In this matter, we ask only

that you become more aware of your fellow citizens,

who must juggle iPods, blackberries, briefcases

and cell phones, lattes. Who must march steadily

or be trampled by the similarly burdened citizens

immediately behind them. Your shouting and pointing

does not serve you well. Those of us employed

by the agency are sworn to oversee you. If we seem,

as you suggest, to have overlooked you instead,

that is an oversight and will be addressed, I am certain,

in our annual review. Please be aware: To eliminate

your poverty, your hunger, your aesthetically

pleasing, yet disturbing, presence in our doorways,

above our heating grates, in our subway tunnels

and under our freeways would mean the elimination

of the agency itself and quite possibly a decline

in tourism. Those of us employed by the agency

have neither the stamina, persistence, nor the luminous

skin tones that you present to the viewing public.

Finally, to those who would recommend programs,

who would call for funding and action,

I must remind you that we have been charged not

with eliminating your suffering but with managing it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The N Word (USA: Todd Nelson, 2004: 86 mins)

[For a student who is researching this subject]

Stephen Goddard: 'So, Did You See Me?' -- Testimony, Memory and Re-Making Film History

'So, Did You See Me?': Testimony, Memory and Re-Making Film History
by Stephen Goddard


Testimony (as Memoir)

My mother’s testimony is closer to memoir than fully-fashioned autobiography. Judith Barrington provides a clear and useful distinction: ‘An autobiography is the story of a life ... Memoir, on the other hand, makes no pretense of replicating a whole life’. (3) My mother’s testimony does not present either the story or even a complete life-story. Rather than autobiography, her testimony is presented as a series of episodic scenes. And whilst her testimony is the result of both a conscious sense of selection and a performative sense of improvisation, there is never a sense that these selections are guided by the need to develop and maintain a singular thematic coherence.

Testimonies, as a form of oral memoir, are also based on how one perceives one’s own life. A testimony provides an accounting and a sense of witnessing, from one’s own vantage points. In this respect, it shares many of the characteristics of memoirs based on personal experience or personal knowledge. Paul Valéry poetically reminds us that experience is mediated by an autobiographical witness: ‘In my opinion it is more useful to speak of what one has experienced than to pretend to a knowledge that is entirely impersonal, an observation without an observer. In fact, there is no theory that is not a fragment, carefully prepared, of some autobiography’. (4) For Valéry, it may not be a matter of trying to define what is or might be autobiographical; it may be a matter of considering whether we can exist outside the realm of the subjective and autobiographical.

My mother’s testimony is effectively an autobiographical video memoir – performed and improvised in one sitting. Across the years, I had heard fragments of her wartime stories. The presence of a camera, microphone and interviewer was an attempt to summon all of these stories (and emotions) in one session for a new audience. Instead of costume changes, the only interruptions to the storytelling were for changing videotapes. Although the interviewer compiled and selected questions based on a pre-testimony interview, the recorded testimony was unrehearsed. Inevitably, there was a theatrical sense of performativity, where the stories and the storytelling were continuously inflected with delicate improvisation. There were no second takes and no sense of providing a performance that could later be edited. What we see and hear in these testimonies is a mix of interviewer questions and testimonial responses. We also see and hear a human listening to her own improvising voice: attempting with uncertainty to document and simultaneously understand her experiences, as well as her memories of those experiences.

Some families are able to gather around a family photo album, to hear the stories that surround the images of parents and relatives in earlier times. My parents did not have any photographs from their days before war. My mother’s prisoner number clothing tag is the earliest remaining image representing her identity. As an antidote to the lost images of her formative days, and as a way of representing the events that were never recorded, the stories and anecdotes from her Shoah testimonial have now become the soundtrack to a lost ‘home movie’.

Remembering (as Rewriting)

Testimonies, based on first-hand experiences, are often valued as primary source material. In a courtroom, an eyewitness testimony is also valued for its impact on jurors. And yet, eyewitnesses and their testimony can be forgetful, interpretive and uncertain. In much the same way, a memoir based on testimony can proceed on the basis of conjecture, invention and partial knowledge. My mother’s testimony was an unscripted narration, which seemed, at times, to rely on speculation. From watching and listening to her testimony, I know that there is also a great deal of selective remembering. Some things are all-too-well-remembered; other things are either not-so-well-remembered, or appear not to be well-remembered, because they are not-so-well-performed. The gaps in her fading memory, and the lack of images from the period, motivated her attempts to (re)construct and narrate stories that were always in the process of being rewritten.

With reference to his own autobiographical project, Roland Barthes acknowledges the ways in which writing is also an act of rewriting: ‘I had no other solution than to rewrite myself – at a distance, a great distance – here and now: to add to the books, to the themes, to the memories, to the texts, another utterance, without my ever knowing whether it is about my past or present that I am speaking’. (5) My mother’s testimony was not a continuously retrospective narrative. Whilst reflecting upon and narrativising her life experiences, the focus was as much on the present as it was on past events. Although the representational image of my mother was firmly and relentlessly set in the present, her vocal narration moved between the introspective and retrospective: travelling freely between the distanced past and the living room of the present.

Testimony and telling a (life) story is as much a form of writing as a form of rewriting: rewriting the story, re-writing yourself, and rewriting history. Testimony, as narrated memoir, is inflected as much by authentic memory and eyewitness memories as it is informed by creative, performed, improvised, invented and rewritten narration. And there is something inherently rewriteable about oral histories and video testimonies, because there is always the possibility of adding to the rememberings, revelations and interpretations. Each subsequent generation can also add its own layers of annotation.

At the end of the Shoah Foundation recordings, family members are asked whether they wish to add a comment to the videotape. At the time, I remember thinking that whatever comments I might make would seem banal and trifling in relation to what had just transpired. Without having seen or heard the previous two hours of testimony, it seemed like a daunting task. Nevertheless, I added a short message: more as a way of speaking to my Mother than anything else. In many respects, I am now trying, in a slightly more considered way, to add my annotations to her testimony, and to speak to her again. It is also part of a continuing effort to speak to, and reconsider, the important legacies of her generation.

Storytelling often occurs in the presence of others – others who are also authoring and telling their stories. I am attempting to re-enter the room from which I was excluded when my mother provided her testimony. In attempting to communicate with her again, I’m also trying to remember her, and remember what she remembered. By remembering with her, I’m co-memorating.

For me, at the time, Schindler’s List seemed somewhat pale and all too distant compared to my mother’s graceful video testimony. Her story is a telling story, because it is a story she is telling – to me, for me, and for future generations. One of the legacies I have inherited from her testimony is the belief in the possibility of rewriting, reinterpreting, and starting again. My mother used video and the performative process of testimony to rewrite and re-envisage herself. When she told her stories, she regenerated herself and set herself free.

My mother agreed to provide her testimony for the Shoah Foundation six months after my Father had done so. It was not an automatic decision for her. I believe that she agreed to tell her side of her story because she felt that her stories had been appropriated and rewritten (by others), and that in order to survive (once again), she needed to narrate, rewrite and remake her own history (again). By looking at and listening to the video recordings of family testimonies, we can see and hear how the participants (collectively, members of our family), whilst bearing witness, are also in the process of rewriting their past(s) and reinventing themselves.

Whenever we remember one thing, we forget another ...

We are, therefore, constantly in the process of remembering ... and forgetting ...

To fill the gaps in our memories, to create stories of coherence, and to give an account of our selves,

we rewrite and remake our stories – into our histories and into our futures ...

To Read the Entire Essay

VCinema Show #5: Yakuzathon!

Episode 5: Yakuzathon!
VCinema Show

The VCinema boys hang out with Patrick Macias, current editor-in-chief of Otaku USA and author of Tokyoscope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion, Japanese School Girl Inferno, and Cruising the Anime City among other books and articles about Japanese pop culture. Among other topics, Patrick gives us a run down on the history of yakuza films among other topics.

Also in this episode, the infamous The Tattooed Hitman starring one “Bud” Sugawara is reviewed and a discussion ensues about why yakuza films never made it big out of Japan in the first place.

To Listen to the Episode

The Marketplace of Ideas: The world dreamed but not judged -- traveler and writer Pico Iyer

The world dreamed but not judged: traveler and writer Pico Iyer
The Marketplace of Ideas

Colin Marshall talks to essayist, novelist, traveler, and "global soul" Pico Iyer. Since Video Night in Kathmandu, his journey through the rapidly changing Asia of the mid-1980s, Iyer has told us all about what it feels like and what it means to exist in and pass through places from Atlanta to Kyoto to Asunción to Pyongyang. Having been born to an Indian family and grown up equally between England and Santa Barbara, California, he both embodies and tirelessly describes the hybridized, cross-pollinated, geographically conversational world culture in which we all find ourselves.

To Listen to the Episode

Charles Terrano: A Question of Growth?

A Question of Growth
by Charles Terrano
Bluegrass Socialist Party

One of the biggest challenges facing Socialists is overcoming all the misinformation and misconceptions that people have. Not misconceptions about Socialism; misconceptions about Capitalism. People do not understand how a Capitalist economy actually works. We saw this during the debt debates a few months back. Those on the Right love to compare national finances to household finances. We heard so many times how when times are tough a household needs to cut back its spending to make ends meet; therefore government needs to do the same. Comparing national finances to household finances creates a nice easy analogy that ordinary people can relate to and it makes sense to say, if a family has to cut back spending when times get tough, shouldn't governments need to do the same thing?

Arguments like this show a complete misunderstanding of how finances work on a national level. Federal spending and debt work nothing like household spending and debt, but to a populace who doesn't know any better the comparison seems to make perfect sense. Educating people on economics is a huge challenge but one that we must undertake. People will never embrace Socialism as an alternative to Capitalism until they understand how the Capitalist system actually works. Until they understand the economics behind the system they wouldn't realize how badly the system hurts them.

The first step in understanding the system is to not accept statements at face value; learn to ask questions. Here's a great example: Ronald Reagan is a hero to those on the Right; it is often said that once he took office Reagan was responsible for starting the greatest period of growth in American history. This theme is repeated so often that most people simply believe it without question. This is what needs to change. When a person says that Reagan was responsible for the greatest growth we need to first ask: "What do you mean by growth?"

There are many, many ways to measure growth. We could look at the growth of income, general economic growth measured by GDP, employment growth, business growth, market growth, etc. So what kind of growth does the Right mean when they talk about Reagan? The first thing you might think of is wage growth; let's look at that first.

If we take a look at the publically available data on incomes that can be found on the census bureau’s website we can find that in 1980 the median income for a family in the bottom fifth of the population was $16,151/year (adjusted for inflation), in 2010 the median income was $14,991/year - a 7% loss. Compare that to the top 5% of the population, for people in that group their median income in 1980 was $176,375 (adjusted for inflation), in 2010 their median income had jumped to $313,298 - a 78% gain.

If you were in the poorest segment of the population, your income has actually dropped over the past 30 years while the richest segment of the population has seen their income jump dramatically. Okay, so Regan's growth could have referred to incomes for the richest Americans but as we've seen it certainly didn't do anything to help the incomes of the poor.

The next thing to look at would be general economic growth as measured by the Gross Domestic Product. GDP growth is probably what most people would think of when talking about economic growth. Here the numbers tell a very interesting story. Again, these numbers are publically available, in this case from Table 1.1.1 on the Bureau of Economic Analysis website. During the 1950's our GDP grew an average of 4.17% a year, in the 60s it was 4.44%, the 70s saw growth of 3.26%. During the 1980s, the Reagan era, GDP growth was 3.05% followed by 3.20% in the 90s and a horrible 1.69% during the 2000s. According to the data direct from the government's websites our GDP growth was actually worse during the Reagan and post-Reagan era than it was in the 30 years prior.

So growth in this context doesn't refer to GDP growth and it doesn't refer to income growth except for those at the very top. How about jobs? Perhaps there was tremendous growth in jobs after Reagan took office. Let's go to the data, this time the data is from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. If you look at the unemployment figures you will find that from 1950-1979 unemployment averaged 5.17%. From 1980 through 2009 unemployment averaged 6.30%. Unemployment was over a percent higher on average during the post-Reagan era than before it.

If it wasn't jobs, wasn't the GDP, wasn't income except for a select few, what exactly was the growth that Reagan was said to have created?

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bad Archaeology: I remember why I’ve never wanted satellite television

I remember why I’ve never wanted satellite television
Bad Archaeology

For some reason, there is a channel known as The History Channel. Given its schedule, I can only conclude that the name is ironic in a postmodern sense. It certainly bears only a tangential relationship to something that I would recognise as ‘history’. I’ve been aware for some time that its programming is weighted towards the American Civil War and Nazis, much in the way that the ‘bookshop’ W H Smith has a ‘History’ section that deals largely in World War II and bullshit history. Given that the channel has aired series such as The Bible Code: predicting Armageddon and Nostradamus Effect, I really ought not to be shocked at any of its offerings.

And yet…

And yet, the discovery that it has given air time to a programme called Ancient Aliens (note that it’s not even a question!) is shocking and profoundly depressing. And it’s in its second series! Given that many people in the modern world use the television as their principal window on the world and source of information about that world, for a significant number of them, it has an authority that probably no other institution (even school) does. If it’s been on a television documentary, so popular wisdom has it, then it must be true: a twenty-first century equivalent of “I read it in the paper, so it must be true…”. A quote from an online forum should suffice to illustrate the point: “I don’t think you will be able to easily ‘debunk’ anything you see on the history channel. Everything that you see on their shows comes from legit scientific sources and is supported by many word class researches and experts”. There are times when I despair for the future of our civilisation.

The background information for the series, posted on the channel’s website, says:

According to ancient alien theorists, extraterrestrials with superior knowledge of science and engineering landed on Earth thousands of years ago, sharing their expertise with early civilizations and forever changing the course of human history… Ancient alien theory grew out of the centuries-old idea that life exists on other planets… The space program played no small part in this as well: If mankind could travel to other planets, why couldn’t extraterrestrials visit Earth? …

Most ancient alien theorists, including von Däniken, point to two types of evidence to support their ideas. The first is ancient religious texts in which humans witness and interact with gods or other heavenly beings who descend from the sky—sometimes in vehicles resembling spaceships—and possess spectacular powers. The second is physical specimens such as artwork depicting alien-like figures and ancient architectural marvels like Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt.

This blurb flatters the promoters of the ideas that descriptions of gods from the sky in ancient texts are accounts of genuine extraterrestrial visitations and that archaeological remains that make little obvious sense to us today: it calls them theorists. Almost as if they are scientists. And for many of us, scientists are the ultimate arbiters of what is real and what is not.

On the page dealing with Evidence of Ancient Aliens? (at least the web designer has had the courtesy to make it a question!), we find six things presented in support of the idea (okay, let’s be generous and go with the channel’s word, theory). These are:

The Nazca Lines
The Moai of Easter Island
Puma Punku
The Book of Ezekiel
Pacal’s Sarcophagus

It’s an eclectic list, to be sure, and it covers some exotic locations as well as some interesting ancient literature. But it’s a hugely problematical list and it has the fingerprints of Erich von Däniken all over it; moreover, four of the items have been widely debunked since the 1970s (perhaps best in Ronald Story’s 1976 The space-gods revealed: a close look at the theories of Erich von Däniken).

To Read the Rest of the Analysis

FORA TV: Life in Japanese Film -- Donald Richie

Life in Japanese Film: Donald Richie
Berkeley Arts and Letters

At this special evening of recollection and conversation, Donald Richie discusses Japan and his insights into Japanese culture and especially Japanese film with Tom Luddy, co-founder and current co-director of the Telluride Film Festival and an executive and film producer with American Zoetrope.

Praised by critics from Susan Sontag to Tom Wolfe, Richie is the foremost writer on Japanese culture in English. Born in Ohio in 1924, he has lived in Japan since 1947, except for time at Columbia University in the early 1950s and as curator of film at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1968–73.

The author of some thirty books and dozens of essays, Richie is especially well known for his instrumental role in introducing Japanese film to the West and for his travel memoir The Inland Sea, which was adapted into a popular PBS documentary.

In addition to The Inland Sea, his books published by Berkeley-based Stone Bridge Press include Travels in the East, A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics, The Donald Richie Reader, and The Japan Journals.

He recently wrote the forewords to A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors by Alexander Jacoby, and Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa by Teruyo Nogami. Richie is also an experimental filmmaker. In 1988, he was invited to be the first guest director at the Telluride Film Festival.

To Watch the Episode

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Salty Dog Blues N Roots Podcast: Ray Manzarek N Roy Rogers; The Break; Jeff Lang; Kenny Wayne Shepard; Hillstomp; John Luke Logan; Bruce Springsteen; Fiona Boyes; Ross Neilsen N Sufferin Bastards; Alan Black; Bruce Cockburn; Backsliders; Kinks; Tedeschi Trucks Band; Bill Chambers; Sal Kimber; Greg Fingers Taylor; Transvaal Diamond Syndicate; Nancy McKeen Bluz Machine; Daryl Roberts; Jack Ladder; Ben Harper; Scott Henderson

Salty Dog Blues N Roots Podcast (Australia)

1 Ray Manzarek N Roy Rogers -- Five And Ones
2 The Break -- Five Rocks
3 Jeff Lang -- Mama, Why You Holding Back Now
4 Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band -- Baby The Rain Must Fall
5 Hillstomp -- Little Angel Child
6 John Juke Logan -- The Truth Will Rock You
7 Bruce Springsteen -- Into The Fire
8 Fiona Boyes -- High Time
9 Ross Neilsen N Sufferin Bastards -- She Ain't You
10 Alan Black -- 3 Kinds Of Fool
11 Bruce Cockburn -- Get Up Jonah
12 Backsliders -- Bowie County
13 Kinks -- All Day And All Of The Night
14 Tedeschi Trucks Band -- Simple Things
15 Bill Chambers -- Just Dreaming
16 Sal Kimber -- Tempt The Rain
17 Greg Fingers Taylor -- Sleeping In The Ground
18 Transvaal Diamond Syndicate -- Hangman's Noose
19 Nancy McKeen Bluz Machine -- Slow Burn
20 Daryl Roberts -- Wall Of Stone
21 Jack Ladder -- The Barber's Son
22 Ben Harper -- Ground On Down
23 Scott Henderson -- Too Many Gittars

To Listen to the Episode

Rolling Stones: Sympathy for the Devil

Making Contact: Growin’ Up, Comin’ Out, Speakin’ Proud

Growin’ Up, Comin’ Out, Speakin’ Proud
Making Contact (National Radio Project)

Every year across the country and around the world –– lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer people and those who support them gather to march, protest and celebrate. Over the past two decades, there have been profound transformations of human and civil rights for queer people in this country. Still, LGBTQ perspectives are largely absent from public discourse – especially the views of young queer people. On this edition, we hear from queer youth who are making radio to share their stories, perspectives and create social change.


“Dia’s Diary,” producers: Dia Fallana, Robbie Francis, Noah Miller. “Comics All Around,” producer: Thao To. “Glasnost,” producer: Alla Pekareva. “Riot Boyyy” Producer: Diego Ruiz.

To Listen to the Episode

Stephen Colbert Has the Perfect Presidential Running Mate for Republicans - the Grim Reaper

via Video Cafe

Publishers Weekly: Say Yes to Gay YA

Say Yes To Gay YA
By Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith
Publishers Weekly

We are published authors who co-wrote a post-apocalyptic young adult novel. When we set out to find an agent for it, we expected to get some rejections. But we never expected to be offered representation… on the condition that we make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether.

Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

Rachel replied, “Making a gay character straight is a line in the sand which I will not cross. That is a moral issue. I work with teenagers, and some of them are gay. They never get to read fantasy novels where people like them are the heroes, and that’s not right.”

The agent suggested that perhaps, if the book was very popular and sequels were demanded, Yuki could be revealed to be gay in later books, when readers were already invested in the series.

We knew this was a pie-in-the-sky offer—who knew if there would even be sequels?—and didn’t solve the moral issue. When you refuse to allow major characters in YA novels to be gay, you are telling gay teenagers that they are so utterly horrible that people like them can’t even be allowed to exist in fiction.

LGBTQ teenagers already get told this. They are four times more likely than straight teenagers to attempt suicide. We’re not saying that the absence of LGBTQ teens in YA sf and fantasy novels is the reason for that. But it’s part of the overall social prejudice that does cause that killing despair.

We wrote this novel so that the teenagers we know—some of whom are gay, and many of whom are not white—would be able, for once, to read a fun post-apocalyptic adventure in which they are the heroes. And we were told that such a thing could not be allowed.

After we thanked the agent for their time, declined the offer, and hung up, Sherwood broke the silence. “Do you think the agent missed that Becky and Brisa [supporting characters] are a couple, too? Do they ever actually kiss on-page? No? I’M ADDING A LESBIAN KISS NOW!”

This Is Not About One Bad Apple

This isn’t about that specific agent; we’d gotten other rewrite requests before this one. Previous agents had also offered to take a second look if we did rewrites… including cutting the viewpoint of Yuki, the gay character. We wondered if that was because of his sexual orientation, but since the agents didn’t say it out loud, we could only wonder. (We were also told that it is absolutely unacceptable in YA for a boy to consensually date two girls, but that it would be okay if he was cheating and lying. And we wonder if some agents were put off because none of our POV characters are white.)

We absolutely do not believe that all our rejections were due to prejudice. We know for a fact that some of them weren’t. (An agent did offer us representation, but we ended up passing due to creative differences that had nothing to do with the identities of the characters.)

This isn’t about one agent’s personal feelings about gay people. We don’t know their feelings; they may well be sympathetic in their private life, but regard the removal of gay characters as a marketing issue. The conversation made it clear that the agent thought our book would be an easy sale if we just made that change. But it doesn’t matter if the agent rejected the character because of personal feelings or because of assumptions about the market. What matters is that a gay character would be quite literally written out of his own story.

We are avoiding names because we don’t want this story to be about one agent who spoke more bluntly than others whose objections were more indirectly expressed. Naming names can make it too easy to target a lone “villain,” who can be blamed and scolded until everyone feels that the matter has been satisfactorily dealt with.

Forcing all major characters in YA novels into a straight white mold is a widespread, systemic problem which requires long-term, consistent action.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

The Marketplace of Ideas: The surreal life of Mexico City -- bilingual bicultural binational journalist Daniel Hernandez

The surreal life of Mexico City: bilingual bicultural binational journalist Daniel Hernandez
The Marketplace of Ideas (KCSB: Santa Barbara Public Radio)

Colin Marshall talks to Daniel Hernandez, bilingual bicultural binational journalist, blogger at Intersections, and author of Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the 21st Century. In 2007, the Mexican-American Hernandez moved to Mexico City to explore its spirit of adventure, its multitude of youthful subcultures, its undercurrent of chaos, and its sheer day-to-day surrealism. His first book collects pieces on Mexico City subjects as far-ranging as fashion parties, kidnappings, original punk rock, death, cellphone-thieving transsexuals, a particularly intense native sauna, and the "emo riots" of 2008.

To Listen to the Episode

The Marketplace of Ideas: A dozen years of particularly gripping cinema -- film critic Dave Kehr

A dozen years of particularly gripping cinema: film critic Dave Kehr
The Marketplace of Ideas (KCSB: Santa Barbara, CA Public Radio)

Colin Marshall talks to Dave Kehr, former film critic at the Chicago Reader and Chicago Tribune and current DVD columnist for the New York Times. In his first collection, When Movies Mattered: Reviews from a Transformative Decade, he brings together his writings on some of the finest films and filmmakers of the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties, including Jean-Luc Godard, Manoel de Oliveira, Blake Edwards, and Albert Brooks.

To Listen to the Episode

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eekwol: Too Sick

R. Fink: Rock'n'Roll Suicide #90

Rock'n'Roll Suicide #90
by R. Fink
The Garage Punk Hideout

1. Ice 9: 27.3 (Cool)
2. Dex Romweber Duo: Jungle Drums (Is That You In The Blue, Bloodshot)
3. Cum Stain: Broke My Dick (You Should Fucking Die You Scumbag Trust Me Your Mother Won’t Miss You, Burger)
4. Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin: Suffragette City (Castle Face Group Flex, Castle Face)
5. Useless Eaters: Customer (Zulu, Gold Tapes)
6. Raydios: Turning Blue (Original Demo Recordings, Screaming Apple)
7. Bad Sports: Nothing To Do (Nashville’s Dead)
8. Total Control: No Bibs (Henge Beat, Iron Lung)
9. Eagle Boys: Taking Stock (Negative Guest List)
10. Rods: Do Anything You Wanna Do (Island)
11. Onion Dolls: The Kids (Twinkle/Last Laugh)
12. Curlee Wurlee!: Big Bang Shot (…Likes Milk, Moody Monkey)
13. Aggravation: Can’t Crush You (P.Trash)
14. Sleaze: Retro Sexy In Blue (Total Punk)
15. Spivs: I Don’t Want It (Damaged Goods)
16. PVC: Without You (Wall City Rock, Incognito)
17. Spartan Dreggs: Misery Shared (Damaged Goods)
18. Burning Itch: Say It Again (s/t, Tic Tac Totally)
19. Incredible Kidda Band: If You Think I’m Square (Too Much, Too Little, Too Late, Detour)
20. Speed: Speed Speed Speed Is Really All We Need (Real)
21. Hammer Damage: Laugh (Broken/Last Laugh)
22. Masonics: She’s My Baby (In Your Night Of Dreams And Other Foreboding Pleasures, Dirty Water)
23. Les Sexareenos: Wild Wild WIld (Live In The Bed, SFTRI)
24. Divorced: I Want To Die (Separation Anxiety, Untapped Resources)

To Listen to the Episode

H. Patricia Hynes: The Military Assault on Global Climate

The Military Assault on Global Climate
by H. Patricia Hynes

By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products and energy ... Yet, the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements ... Any talk of climate change which does not include the military is nothing but hot air, according to Sara Flounders.

It's a loophole [in the Kyoto Convention on Climate Change] big enough to drive a tank through, according to the report " A Climate of War."

In 1940, the US military consumed one percent of the country's total energy usage; by the end of World War II, the military's share rose to 29 percent.(1) Oil is indispensable for war.

Correspondingly, militarism is the most oil-exhaustive activity on the planet, growing more so with faster, bigger, more fuel-guzzling planes, tanks and naval vessels employed in more intensive air and ground wars. At the outset of the Iraq war in March 2003, the Army estimated it would need more than 40 million gallons of gasoline for three weeks of combat, exceeding the total quantity used by all Allied forces in the four years of World War 1. Among the Army's armamentarium were 2,000 staunch M-1 Abrams tanks fired up for the war and burning 250 gallons of fuel per hour.(2)

The US Air Force (USAF) is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world. Fathom, if you can, the astronomical fuel usage of USAF fighter planes: the F-4 Phantom Fighter burns more than 1,600 gallons of jet fuel per hour and peaks at 14,400 gallons per hour at supersonic speeds. The B-52 Stratocruiser, with eight jet engines, guzzles 500 gallons per minute; ten minutes of flight uses as much fuel as the average driver does in one year of driving! A quarter of the world's jet fuel feeds the USAF fleet of flying killing machines; in 2006, they consumed as much fuel as US planes did during the Second World War (1941-1945) - an astounding 2.6 billion gallons.(3)

Barry Sanders observes with a load of tragic irony that, while many of us assiduously reduce our carbon footprint through simpler living, eating locally, recycling and reusing, energy conservation, taking public transportation, installing solar panels, and so on, the single largest institutional polluter and contributor to global warming - the US military - is immune to climate change concerns. The military reports no climate change emissions to any national or international body, thanks to US arm-twisting during the 1997 negotiations of the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. To protect the military from any curbs on their activities, the United States demanded and won exemption from emission limits on "bunker" fuels (dense, heavy fuel oil for naval vessels) and all greenhouse gas emissions from military operations worldwide, including wars. Adding insult to injury, George W. Bush pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol as one of the first acts of his presidency, alleging it would straitjacket the US economy with too costly greenhouse emissions controls. Next, the White House began a neo-Luddite campaign against the science of climate change. In researching "The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism," Sanders found that getting war casualty statistics out of the Department of Defense (DoD) is easier than getting fuel usage data.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

More Resources:

H. Patricia Hynes: War and the Tragedy of the Commons

Monday, September 12, 2011

On the Media: The Wall Street Journal Disappears an Error

The Wall Street Journal Disappears an Error
On the Media (WNYC: New York City Public Radio)

In the wake of the Oslo attacks, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial blaming the violence on Islamic extremists. When further reporting revealed that the killer wasn’t a Muslim, the Journal changed its editorial online without issuing any sort of correction. Craig Silverman, who tracks newspaper corrections at his website Regret the Error, tells Bob that the Journal acted dishonestly.

To Listen to the Episode

Classics Off the Beaten Path: Performance (UK: Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg, 1970)

Showing this film at the Downtown Library at 7pm tonight -- free and open to the public.

On the Media: For Reporter John Conroy, A Torture Story Without End

For Reporter John Conroy, A Torture Story Without End
On the Media (WNYC: New York City public radio)

... former police commander Jon Burge was convicted after 30 years of accusations that he’d tortured dozens of suspects on Chicago’s South Side. It should have been the satisfying culmination of decades of single-minded investigative reporting on the story by longtime Chicago reporter John Conroy. But as Conroy explains, not all is as it appears to be.

To Listen to the Episode

Making Contact: Survivors of Solitary Confinement

Survivors of Solitary Confinement
Making Contact (National Radio Project)

President Obama recently declared that “we have banned torture without exception.” However, some would take exception to this claim. The practice of isolating a person in solitary confinement for extended periods of time causes severe sensory deprivation and has been denounced as torture by the United Nations. But tens of thousands are locked up in solitary confinement in American prisons. Producer Claire Schoen met nine formerly incarcerated people, who described what it’s like not to talk to or touch another person, for years at a time


Hakeem Shaheed, Laura Whitehorn, Robert Dellalo, Bilal Sunni Ali, Munirah El Bumani, Ray Luc Levasseur, Tommy Escarciga, Diano King ArchAngel Rodriguez, and Robert King Wilkerson, solitary confinement survivors; Teresa Vaughn, mother of son who died in solitary confinement.

To Listen to the Episode

Sunday, September 11, 2011

HUM 230: Contemporary Japanese Literature and Culture in Translation

Building film/resource list for the Spring 2012 course -- suggestions always welcome:

Course Films

Late Spring (Japan: Yasujirô Ozu, 1949: 108 mins)

Rashomon (Japan: Akira Kurosawa, 1950: 88 mins)

Ugetsu (Japan: Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953: 94 mins)

Gojira (Japan: Ishirô Honda, 1954: 96 mins)

Hara Kiri (Japan: Masaki Kobayashi, 1962: 133 mins)

Under the Flag of the Red Sun (Japan: Kinji Fukasaku, 1972: 96 mins)

In the Realm of the Senses (Japan: Nagisa Ôshima, 1976: 109 mins)

Ghost in the Shell (Japan: Mamoru Oshii, 1995: 83 mins)

Fireworks (Japan: Takeshi Kitano, 1997: 103 mins)

Princess Mononoke (Japan: Hayao Miyazaki, 1997: 134 mins)

Ringu (Japan: Hideo Nakata, 1998: 96 mins)

Metropolis (Japan: Rintaro, 2001: 108 mins)

Still Walking (Japan: Hirokazu Koreeda, 2008: 115 mins)


Bolton, Christopher, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, ed. Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction From Origins to Anime. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2007.

Nitobe, Inazo. Bushido: The Soul of Japan. (Originally published 1904: Author's Edition, Revised and Enlarged 13th EDITION 1908) More print versions available at Project Gutenberg. Audio reading available here.


Murakami, Haruki. "On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning."


About Japan: A Teacher's Resource

Akira Kurosawa: News, Information and Discussion

Anime World Order Podcast

Japan Society (New York)

Japan Society Film Blog

Midnight Eye: Visions of Japanese Cinema

A Short History of Japan

Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow

VCinema: Asian Cinema

Individual Articles/Chapters/Films/Videos/Audios:

"Akira Kurosawa." British Film Institute (Archive of Features)

Anderson, Sam. "The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami." The New York Times (10/23/2011)

Brown, Steven T. "Machinic Desires: Hans Bellmer's Dolls and the Technological Uncanny in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence." Mechademia 3: Limits of the Human. ed. Frenchy Lunning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008: 222-254.

Buchanan, Judith. "Cross-cultural Narrative Rhymes: The Shakespeare Films of Akira Kurosawa (Throne of Blood [1957], The Bad Sleep Well [1960], Ran [1985])." Shakespeare on Film NY: Pearson/Longman, 2005: 71-89. [Professor owns book -- ask for a copy of the essay]

Chaudhuri, Shohini. "East Asian Cinema." Contemporary World Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005: 93-114. [Book available in BCTC library]

Domenig, Roland. "Proud to Be Pink: A Brief History of Kokuei." Far East Film (2011)

Fisch, Michael. "Nation, War, and Japan’s Future in the Science Fiction Anime Film Patlabor II." Science Fiction Studies 27.1 (March 2000): 49-68.

Hogg, Trevor. "Drawn to Anime: A Hayao Miyazaki Profile." Flickering Myth (May 26, 2010)

---. "Epic Dreamer: An Akira Kurosawa Profile." Flickering Myth (March 24, 2010)

Hollings, Ken. "Tokyo Must Be Destroyed: Dreams of Tall Buildings and Monsters -- Images of Cities and Monuments." CTheory (originally published in Digital Delirium. ed. Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1997.)

Iyer, Pico. "The World Dreamed But Not Judged." The Marketplace of Ideas (August 10, 2011)

Macias, Patrick. "Yakuzathon!" VCinema (March 24, 2010)

Napier, Susan. "When the Machine Stops: Fantasy, Reality, and Terminal Identity in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Serial Experiments: Lain." Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams: Japanese Science Fiction From Origins to Anime. ed. Christopher Bolton, et al. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 2007: 101-122.

Noriega, Chon. "Godzilla and the Japanese Nightmare: When Them! is U.S." Aisan Cinemas ed. Dimitris Eleftheriotis and Gary Needham. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006: 41-55.

Orbaugh, Sharalyn. "Emotional Infectivity: Cyborg Affect and the Limits of the the Human." Mechademia 3: Limits of the Human. ed. Frenchy Lunning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008: 150-172.

Richie, Donald. "Life in Japanese Film." FORA TV (April 21, 2009)

Tatsumi, Takayuki. "Generations and Controversies: An Overview of Japanese Science Fiction, 1957-1997." Science Fiction Studies 27.1 (2000)

Voss, Tobias. "Nuclear Blues." Japan Society (August 18, 2011)

Japanese Director Kaneto Shindō: On Sex

Our human existence is rooted in sex. .... It lies at the very heart of love. Though conservatives reject the very idea as dangerous, I would say that the way to save us from our own perversity is by confronting sex courageously. ... Sex brings relief from tension and enmity and leads to harmony in human relationships--husband and wife, [friends] and strangers. (109)

Kaneto Shindō, qouted in McDonald, Keiko. "Eros, Politics, and Folk Religion: Kaneto Shindō's Onobaba (1963)." Reading a Japanese Film: Cinema in Context. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006: 108-121.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Media Education Foundation: Beyond the Frame - Alternative Perspectives on the War on Terrorism

Beyond the Frame: Alternative Perspectives on the War on Terrorism
Media Education Foundation

This DVD compilation offers a series of stand-alone interviews with some of the most prominent scholars, experts, and activists in political and social thought that critique mainstream media's coverage of the war on terrorism. This accessible format is designed to allow educators to bring the voices of these cultural analysts directly into their classrooms.

Launched in September 2001, Beyond the Frame is a series of interviews with leading scholars, experts, and activists offering alternative perspectives on the 9/11 tragedy and its aftermath. Originally a web-only project, it was a response to MEF's alarm at the dangerously restricted range of views presented by the mainstream media, largely confined to the opinions of political elites and a commercial frame dependent on advertisers and ratings.

Featuring some of the most prominent names in political and social thought: Seth Ackerman, Belquis Ahmadi, Joan Blades, Maliha Chishti, Noam Chomsky, Jo Commerford, Kevin Danaher, Cynthia Enloe, Henry Giroux, Janine Jackson, Robert Jensen, Sut Jhally, Darryl Kimball, Michael Kimmel, Mhahsa Khanbabai, Naomi Klein, Manning Marable, Mark Crispin Miller, Bernie Sanders, Ritu Sharma, Vandana Shiva, and Alisa Solomon.

Sections: Asking Why: Historical Contexts | Watching the Media | Women & the Afghan War | Homeland Insecurity | Resisting War, Defending Democracy | The Iraq War & Militarism

To See the Trailer and to Watch the Entire Documentary

Making Contact: Presumed Guilty - American Muslims and Arabs

Presumed Guilty: American Muslims and Arabs
Making Contact (National Radio Project)

American Arabs and Muslims are under the microscope, from Capitol Hill, to your local shopping mall. Some communities feel demonized and say they are living in fear of arrest. On this edition, we’ll hear stories about the past 10 years of America’s homeland war on Muslims and Arabs. We’ll also hear about racial profiling during previous war times.


Veena Dubal, Asian Law Caucus National Security and Civil Rights Program Staff Attorney; Lejla Duka, family member of the Fort Dix Five; Dominick Calsolaro, Albany Common Council Member; Noor Elashi, daughter of Ghassan Elashi of the Holy Land 5; Shaheena Parveen, mother of Siraj Matin; Marlene Jenkins, mother of Tarik Shaw; Sharmin Sadequee, sister of Shifa Sadequee; Tamer Mehanna, brother of Tariq Mehanna; Fred Korematsu, formerly interned Japanese American; John Frank, Clerk to Associate Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black; Tsuyako Kitashima, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress spokesperson; Donald Tamaki, lawyer for Fred Korematsu; Peter Irons, UC San Diego Constitutional Law Professor.

To Listen to the Episode

David Wallechinsky: Why Do They Hate Us?

Why Do They Hate Us?
By David Wallechinsky


Ten years after I wrote this essay, many Americans continue to insist incorrectly that the 9/11 terrorists attacked us because “they hate our freedoms.”

Back on October 11, 2001, pro-American sentiment around the world was as strong as it had been since World War II. But George W. Bush’s bullying “you’re with us or you’re against us” attitude put a quick end to that window of opportunity. When he invaded Iraq, a nation with no connection to the 9/11 attacks, he made the American reputation in other countries much, much worse.

When I first posted this piece ten years ago, some Jewish friends criticized me for saying that Israel could not survive without US financial aid. It is true that this aid represents just 1% of Israel’s gross domestic product. However, there continues to be a disconnect between the way Americans perceive their government’s Middle East policy and the way it is perceived by Muslims.

Americans like to think that we support ending dictatorships and replacing them with freedom and democracy. The US deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, spoke out against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and fought against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. But this righteousness has been selective. George W. Bush literally held hands in public with King Abdullah, the head of the Saudi dictatorship, and Barack Obama was filmed and photographed bowing down to him. When the Saudis sent troops to Bahrain to crush the pro-democracy movement, the US gave silent support. The Obama administration recently proposed dropping aid restrictions to the brutal regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. In the Muslim world, this behavior is viewed as the same old pre-9/11 strategy of ignoring the human rights abuses of despotic regimes if the dictators have something we want (usually oil or access to military bases).

The best homicide detectives, while investigating serial killers, try to understand the thinking of their adversaries. The best generals try to understand the mindset of their enemies before going into battle. The same process applies to fighting terrorism. As I said ten years ago, there is little that can be done to change the minds of fanatics. However, by looking at the actions of the United States from the point of view of potential enemies, it is possible to significantly reduce the number the people who actually try to commit terrorist acts against us.

To Read the Original Essay