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



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]


Quote from Mariusz Szczygieł's Gottland (2008)

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



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."

Wait, what? 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.

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


 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,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014



     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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Black Cats Moments (II)

Mad Men (Season 07)

This BCM is not very noticeable in a capture, but during the episode the airplane moves in a way that creates a jarring dissonance between it and the background (an obvious green screen). The result is cheap, cheesy, and entirely unnecessary. In theses few seconds, Mad Men goes from being one of the best shot shows on television to having the aesthetics of your average soap opera. (Not that it hasn't crossed this line before!)

Previously: What is a Black Cat Moment?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

a real life conversation (I)

Setup: B. has lots of books. A. knows this.

A: I mean, who would collect books anyway? (Looks at B. playfully.)

B: I don't collect books.

A: Right. (Laughs.)

B: I don't. I buy books for reading and researching. I'm a reader. A collector is someone who buys things for a reason other than use.

A: Then why do you keep the books after you've read them?

B: Lots of reasons. (Pause.) I have a collection, yes, but I'm not a collector.

A: Sounds like you're splitting hairs.

B: If I'm a book collector then someone with a stocked refrigerator is a food collector.

A: That's completely different!

B: You only think so because you don't read. (Pause.) Actually, you're right.

A: Thank you.

B: No, I mean they're different in a way that makes my point stronger. Because I can assure you that if a meal was still food after someone ate it, they wouldn't flush it down the toilet!

A: What on earth are you talking about?

B: I'm trying to explain to you why I keep books after I read them.

Long pause.

A: You eat books!?

B: (Sighs.) Yes!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


An excerpt from Dino Buzzati's masterpiece, Il deserto dei Tartari (1940)—the biography of us all. The text is altered somewhat; I have changed "Drogo," the main character, to "you" in order to make the excerpt work better as a stand alone piece.

"Up to then he had gone forward through the heedless season of early youth—along a road which to children seems infinite, where the years slip past slowly and with quiet pace so that no one notices them go. We walk along calmly, looking curiously around us; there is not the least need to hurry, no one pushes us on from behind and no one is waiting for us; our comrades, too, walk on thoughtlessly, and often stop to joke and play. From the houses, in the doorways, the grown-up people greet us kindly and point to the horizon with an understanding smile. And so the heart begins to beat with desires at once heroic and tender, we feel that we are on the threshold of the wonders awaiting us further on. As yet we do not see them, that is true—but it is certain, absolutely certain that one day we shall reach them.

"Is it far yet? No, you have to cross that river down there, go over those green hills. Haven't we perhaps arrived already? Aren't these trees, these meadows, this white house perhaps what we were looking for? For a few seconds we feel that they are and we would like to halt there. Then someone says that it is better further on and we move off again unhurriedly.

"So the journey continues; we wait trustfully and the days are long and peaceful. The sun shines high in the sky and it seems to have no wish to set.

"But at a certain point we turn round, almost instinctively, and see that a gate has been bolted behind us, barring our way back. Then we feel that something has changed; the sun no longer seems to be motionless but moves quickly across the sky; there is barely time to find it when it is already falling headlong towards the far horizons. We notice that the clouds no longer lie motionless in the blue gulfs of the sky, but flee, piled one above the other, such is their haste. Then we understand that time is passing and that one day or another the road must come to an end.

"At a certain point they shut a gate behind us, they lock it with lightning speed and it is far too late to turn back. But at that moment you were sleeping, blissfully unconscious, and smiling in your sleep like a child.

"Some days will pass before you understand what has happened. Then it will be like an awakening. You will look around incredulously; then you will hear a din of footsteps at your back, will see those who awoke before you running hard to pass you by, to get there first. There will be no more laughing faces at the windows but unmoved and indifferent ones. And if you ask how far there is still to go they will, it is true, still point to the horizon—but not good-naturedly, not joyfully. Meanwhile your companions will disappear from view. One gets left behind, exhausted; another has outstripped the rest and is now no more than a tiny speck on the horizon.

"Another ten miles—people will say—over that river and you will be there. Instead it never ends. The days grow shorter, the fellow-travelers fewer; at the windows apathetic figures stand and shake their heads.

"At last you will be all alone and there on the horizon stretches a measureless sea, motionless, leaden. Now you will be tired; nearly all the houses along the way will have their windows shut and the few persons you see will answer you with a sad gesture. The good things lay further back—far, far back and you have passed them by without knowing it. But it is too late to turn back; behind you swells the hum of the following multitude urged on by the same illusion but still invisible on the white road.

"At this moment you are sleeping in the third redoubt. You are smiling in your dreams. For the last time there come to you by night the sweet sights of a completely happy world. It is as well that you cannot see yourself as you will one day be—there at the end of the road, standing on the shores of the leaden sea under a grey, monotonous sky. And around you there is not a house, not one human being, not a tree, not even a blade of grass. And so it has been since time immemorial."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

affinities XXI

Castle in the Sky (Miyazaki, 1986)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Weerasethakul, 2010)

(See also previous post)

Monday, October 20, 2014

affinities XX

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) / Princess Mononoke (1997)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three stills from various Bill Morrison films that I took from a trailer for the upcoming retrospective Compositions.

bill morrison film, experimental, found footage

bill morrison film, experimental cinema, decay, found footage

bill morrison film, experimental cinema, decay, found footage

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alice Listening to Her Poetry and Music (George Segal, 1970)

From Agnès de ci de là Varda (2011)