Sunday, March 01, 2015

american sniping


Chomsky reviews the reviewers of American Sniper:




* * * 

For reasons that aren't particularly interesting, I won't be seeing American Sniper. I have never been convinced that Clint Eastwood is a very good filmmaker (or actor, for that matter) and, fairly or not, the fact that his films are generally praised very highly makes me feel differently towards them than I would, say, the films of another competent or better than average filmmaker whose work was consistently treated with the lack of reverence and respect I thought it deserved. I also have no patience for any of the recent movies about war and terrorism that couch themselves in vague notions of neutrality, whether that be through a director's insistence that the work is "not political" (and critics largely treat it as such), an actor says that a given film is not about war but rather a "character study" (meaning that the war itself is mere backdrop—an inherently political decision in its implications), or any of the other myriad ways this stance might be expressed. The Hurt Locker, with Kathryn Bigelow's insistence that the film was somehow "neutral" or apolitical, was for me the first and final straw in breaking any interest I had in watching these dishonest (at worst) or woefully naive (giving benefit of doubt) films. At the same time I do sometimes wonder how much this kind of framing is genuine sentiment and how much of it is merely a cynical marketing strategy designed to make the films appeal to the largest number of viewers possible, both pro- and anti-war1. (When it turns out that a given movie is "serious" enough to contend for awards, this strategy would also help ensure that it doesn't ruffle too many feathers in the Academy2, a body thought to be much more in opposition to the Iraq war than in support of it.)3

1: An easy shorthand. But yeah, I just did that unfair thing with language that anti-abortion types do when they frame themselves as "pro-life." (By definition, no sane person is ever "pro-war," however much they might support a particular action.)

2: Not a Birdman reference.

3: I already told you in the beginning that my reasons weren't particularly interesting; you have no one to blame but yourself.

* * *

A comment found below Matt Taibbi's online review of American Sniper :


Normally I wouldn't respond to this at all, or I'd respond to it directly on the page. But since the comments are closed, I'm snowed in, the comment itself is frozen directly below the article for all to see, and I have nothing better to post at the moment...

helloiamyo: You seem to be under the impression that it is somehow possible to go into a movie completely objectively, with no preconceived expectations or prejudice
—how quaint! The irony is that you did the exact same thing you criticize Taibbi for, albeit at the opposite end of the spectrum. You expected to like the film! How do I know? Because you paid to see it! (Though you've already demonstrated that logic isn't your strong suit, I'm assuming that the reasoning behind this particular deduction is intuitive enough for you to infer without my having to explain it.) It follows, then, that you had the mindset of finding what is "right" and "good" in the film and therefore enjoyed it like "the rest of us" (who likewise paid for it) did. Add to this the possibility of having to face the disappointing prospect of having plopped down ten bucks for something you didn't even enjoy and, well, it's no wonder you found something to like, right? Or should I give you more credit than you're giving Taibbi?


The following comment can be seen shortly thereafter, wherein a marooned citizen proudly fires his canons from the shores of Philistia:



Nothing to say to that; one can only marvel. (I would ask, however, that if "entertain" is truly "ENOUGH!" for movies to do, then why does Mr. Lously bother to spend time reading about them, let alone take the time to write a response? I sense some inner conflict...)


Saturday, February 28, 2015

snowballs in hell: a repost


CBS NEWS February 26, 2015, 8:09 PM

WASHINGTON
 -- While the rest of Washington spent Thursday trying to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor during a speech questioning the science behind climate change.
"Do you know what this is? It's a snowball," Inhofe said, holding the snowball aloft. "It's just from outside here, so it's very, very cold out ... very unseasonable."
"Mr. President, catch this," he said, tossing the snowball away. An Inhofe aide told National Journal the projectile was caught by a congressional page.
Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has long argued that climate change is a "hoax," and he's opposed the Obama administration's efforts to reduce carbon emissions. He brandished his snowball prop on Wednesday during a broader speech questioning global warming.
"We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, but now the script has flipped," Inhofe said.
NASA has determined that 2014 was, in fact, the warmest year since modern recording began in 1880.
* * *

 photo logicalfallacycomic-1.jpg
Originally posted 04/2011


"A comic but not comedic. To ridicule -- by way of three small exposures -- a certain pervasive mentality."


Monday, February 02, 2015

inspiration, derivation, or no relation? (affinities XXIII)




Crazy Horse (Wiseman, 2011); Under the Skin (Glazer, 2013)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

waterboarding: five definitions



waterboarding
[waw-ter-bawr-ding, ‐bohr‐, wot-er‐]

noun
1. an enhanced interrogation technique in which water is poured over the face of an immobilized suspect until information is elicited that proves their culpability, thereby creating an easy workaround to the naive, pre-9/11 pipe dream "innocent until proven guilty."

2. a form of enhanced hazing involving water performed on certain immobilized detainees until they admit that they are in fact "enemy combatants," thereby justifying their initial capture, subsequent detention (indefinite), and whatever else might happen to befall them should their treatment ever get leaked to a journalist—particularly one whose hatred of America is so intense that they might actually consider reporting on it.


waterboarding
Obsolete

noun
1. a method of torture that no legal or political or cultural authority from the Spanish Inquisition until the Bush administration ever doubted for a moment was torture.



Dictionary.com definition (US):


Dictionary.com definition (UK):




The first two definitions are mine; the third, which I deemed obsolete, is taken from The Atlantic

Thursday, January 08, 2015

inheritance




"My grandfather, Earl Collins, painted airplanes in England during World War II. After, in civilian life, he painted houses, until he was hired by a Baltimore savings and loan company to supervise maintenance of their city branch. I remember him as a kind and exceptionally generous man with impeccable style. When he died in 1996, my grandmother gave me his 35mm Nikon. I don’t remember him ever taking pictures, but a box of slides I found recently are evidence that he took a lot in the years between 1959 and 1972. These photos are also evidence of an aesthetic, which, if such things can be handed down generations, I believe I inherited. Though we never discussed photography or art and he didn’t like the movies, I am haunted by the similarities between the subjects that interest us and the way we organize the frame." —Matthew Porterfield


top image: By Earl Collins [More]; bottom image: By Matthew Porterfield (Putty Hill)

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Today

From Eduardo Galeano's Children of the Days (2013)



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bacons & Hogg

From The Wordsworth Book of Literary Anecdotes (Robert Hendrickson, 1990)


Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626). A witty murderer was brought before Bacon when he served as England's lord chancellor in 1618.

"Your honor should let me go," the man said. "We're kin. My name is Hogg, and Hogg is kin to Bacon."

"Not until it's hung," Bacon replied.


Figure with Meat (1954) by another Francis Bacon


Monday, December 15, 2014

convergences


I.

The world decided that the punishment for subjecting prisoners to such techniques was death [via / more]


(NKVD was a law enforcement arm of the Soviet Union) [via]

II.

Quote from Mariusz Szczygieł's Gottland (2008)

Obama continuing to "Look forward, not back." [via]


III.





IV.

Interview via Meet, What Some Have Dubbed, "the Press."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday, December 04, 2014

clinical, targeted, precise


In light of a new report by the human rights group Reprieve, which found that US drone strikes kill on average 28 unidentified people for every strike made on an intended target, I wanted to highlight a comment that was made by former head of the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorism Center, Henry A. Crumpton, in the 2012 New York Times article, "The Moral Case for Drones." In response to concerns being raised over civilian casualties, Crumpton defended the merits of drone technology.

"We never said, 'Let's build a more humane weapon,' " Mr. Crumpton said. "We said, 'Let's be as precise as possible, because that's our mission — to kill Bin Laden and the people right around him.' "

Since then, Mr. Crumpton said, the drone war has prompted an intense focus on civilian casualties, which in a YouTube world have become harder to hide. He argues that technological change is producing a growing intolerance for the routine slaughter of earlier wars.

"Look at the firebombing of Dresden, and compare what we're doing today," Mr. Crumpton said. "The public's expectations have been raised dramatically around the world, and that's good news."

Huh? So people used to think it was perfectly fine to firebomb entire cities? Modern wars don't produce routine slaughter? YouTube is the driving force behind creating more precise weaponry? The 25,000+ people killed in Dresden is a case of justifiable moral outrage, yet the much larger number of civilians killed in the Middle East is an example of progress because our weapons are now more "precise" and our targeting more discerning?

Opponents of drone warfare hoping to satirize the government's defense of the practice would be hard-pressed to write a better statement for a key official to make earnestly during an interview. When the bar has to be set that low in order to justify your view—"I mean, compared to the firebombing of Dresden..."—then certainly part of you must know—or rather, should know—that something is majorly wrong with your position.

Later, speaking about the US invasion of Iraq, Crumpton got defensive.

"I don't understand what the big concern is," Mr. Crumpton said. "Yes, it's been a messy affair, and mistakes were made. [...] But look at the bombing of Nagasaki. When you compare what we're doing today in the Middle East with Nagasaki, it's nothing. War is never going to be perfect, but we've made incredible progress. I don't see how anyone could deny that. Sure, more civilians may have been killed in Iraq [than in Nagasaki]. If some of the larger estimates are correct, which I doubt, then it might be true. But that gets to my point, actually, because all of that happened before we were using drones. When we dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were single, indiscriminate bombs [and we] deliberately target[ed] two civilian cities. Whereas now in the Middle East, we're using extremely discriminating, precise technology to selectively target specific enemies, as well as those whose behavior we deem suspicious. That is, we're able to wage a very clinical war by using drones. [...] There's no real argument to be had. It's either [drones] or Nagasaki. Or Dresden. Is that what people want? If we're going to act morally, we have no choice but to use drones. It's that simple." (He didn't really say any of this, of course(?). At least not in so many words!)



The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur.

Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.

However many Americans know who Zawahiri is, far fewer are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.

Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.

A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.
[X]


Click link [X] above for full chart.

Note (from the same Guardian article):

Neither Reprieve nor the Guardian examined the subset of drone strikes that do not target specific people: the so-called “signature strikes” that attack people based on a pattern of behavior considered suspicious, rather than intelligence tying their targets to terrorist activity. An analytically conservative Council on Foreign Relations tally assesses that 500 drone strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have killed 3,674 people.

As well, the data is agnostic on the validity of the named targets struck on multiple occasions being marked for death in the first place.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

close-ups


 photo ScreenShot2014-11-27at33930PM.png      photo Untitled4b.png
 photo 2-1.png      photo 3-2.png
darren wilson, clean conscience, michael brown, ferguson
 photo 4-1.png      photo 2-1.png
 photo Untitled6.png      photo ScreenShot2014-11-29at12557PM.png, ferguson,
 photo michaelbrown2-1.png, michael brown, ferguson, darren wilson, tamir rice, eric garner, protest, injustice      photo tamirrice2.png, tamir rice, ferguson, michael brown, police violence, injustice, protest, eric garner
eric garner, death, verdict, chokehold, not guilty, Daniel Pantaleo, protest, injustice, ferguson,
Etc.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

re:


looting
verb

     1. When people acquire goods in times of trouble to convince themselves they have a future.






Reworked from Céline's Journey to the End of the Night: "They looted to take their minds off their troubles, to make it look as if they had years before them. Everybody likes that feeling. [...] Even with a bullet in their gut, they'd go on picking up old shoes that 'might come in handy.' The way a sheep, lying on its side in a meadow, will keep on grazing with its dying breath."


Friday, November 21, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

a few notes on Peaky Blinders

(I'm just assuming no one has watched this yet.)


• It feels like a more stylish Boardwalk Empire except that, instead of Nucky Thompson, the main character is Jimmy Darmody

• It was the perfect decision, whoever made it, to place the Blinder's HQ at the end of a street lined with blacksmith forges. Everything is constantly glowing orange, sparking and smoking, as if you've entered a special wing of hell. (This works especially well with the music of Nick Cave, whose "Red Right Hand" is the show's theme.)

• It was a bad decision, whoever made it, to name the show Peaky Blinders. (Yes, I know it's purportedly based on the name of a Birmingham street gang "distinguished by their sartorial style." But those of you with Netflix reading this know it's also the reason you haven't watched the show yet!) I will admit, however, that the name isn't as bad as I first thought. What I mean is, one gets used to it rather quickly. (It's hard not to when one of the characters is so fond of shouting "Peaky Blinders!!!" every time he's soaked in alcohol or blood. Which is most of the time.)

• Violence in slow motion set to music is never a good thing—unless, perhaps, the music is Beethoven. (Fortunately this obsession wanes in season 2, which prefers slow motion as a lead in to violence, the first smash of a bottle or fist triggering a return to normal speed.)

• Cillian Murphy has never looked better

• Grace (Annabelle Wallis) is miscast. Something about her face, disposition, and style doesn't work for the time period being depicted. Some people simply don't fit into other eras.

• I like that the show has no reoccurring opening sequence, no well dressed man falling out of a sky scraper or strolling towards the ocean while whisky bottles wash up by his feet. The show starts—credits and Nick Cave do the rest.

• Tom Hardy, one of the best, most interesting actor / performers around, is in season 2! Unfortunately, he's underutilized. For now.

A comment on the following:


Though it's by no means the most egregious example, I despise it when dialogue is aimed at the viewer rather than a character in the scene. Of course they both know that the IRA murdered her father! It would be obvious to her that this incident is what he is referring to when he tells her not to let her personal history "cloud her judgment." There's no reason at all for her to explain what he meant, especially when, a few lines later, he says:


Which, assuming we're capable of inferring something, conveys the exact same information and does so in a way that makes sense in the context of their conversation! This is the kind of a thing that makes me give up on shows1. If the writers don't expect me to be able to infer something, how can I expect them to be able to surprise me? Mutual respect dissolves. Luckily for the show, I noticed that the first season was only six episodes, so I continued. And luckily for me, this kind of dialogue turned out to be rare.

A common sense rule: the longer the investment, the better the show has to be in order to continue watching it. (Let's get cute and call this the Law of Diminishing Reruns. Did you cringe? OK. Never mind. Forget it.) Advice to shows: shorter, or fewer, seasons! There is so much content these days that even the unselective must be selective, so think long and hard about whether your show is really good enough to sustain fifty or sixty hours, or if you're just reluctant to let go of the money that comes with a good thing. (Personally I'd like to start seeing things that fall somewhere between mini-series and series.)

Anyway—Peaky Blinders isn't the smartest of shows (there's a scene in season two involving a grenade that serves a dramatic function that makes no sense—just go look and see if the grenade is actually there, sheesh!), but it has other redeeming qualities: cinematography (begin the show to alleviate boredom and stay for the shallow focus and lighting), mood, some good character actors and acting (I forgot about Sam Neill, who does a great job), and a few good songs (all of them contemporary—which doesn't always work). And it's fun. You can even tell yourself you're learning about post WWI Birmingham, England while you binge-watch all twelve episodes.

1 The exception to this are shows that are highly acclaimed in circles I trust, or recommended to me by someone whose taste I trust. In which case I'll watch the first season regardless.