26 July 2007

the other 9/11

i've been making my way, with some lengthy breaks, through noam chomsky's latest, "failed states". it's by no means his strongest work, but it does touch on a number of interesting issues, including events surrounding 9/11.

by 9/11, i mean september 11, 1973, when an american-backed coup overthrew chile's salvador allende and replaced him with general augusto pinochet. because we've heard so much about that later 9/11, i thought it would be interesting to share a few facts on the original:

- approximately 3,200 people died according to official figures (which are widely viewed to be understated by as much as half).

- adjusted proportionally to population, that is roughly equivalent to between 50 and 100,000 americans being killed at once.

- there were 30,000 cases of torture in pinochet's chile, according to an official inquiry. (adjusted proportionally to population again, that would be the equivalent of 700,000 americans.)

augusto pinochet remained the darling of both ronald reagan and margaret thatcher throughout his reign of terror, something neither has ever bothered to admit was wrong and a travesty of the ideals they purported to defend.

funny, you never hear about that 9/11 nowadays. i wonder why? no, i don't, really. i know.

24 July 2007

antiques

ok, i have to get this off my chest.

i have a birthday coming up. it's not actually coming up for another two months, but if you look at my profile (go ahead, look, i'll be here when you get back), you'll see that it's one of those round numbers, which is usually supposed to mean something.

the last one that had any effect on me was my twentieth, which i disliked because i felt it carried the expectation of adult behaviour. i shook that off reasonably quickly and, while i'm hoping this one will be the same, for now it's hanging before me like an execution date.

i don't really feel my age, either physically or mentally (a lot of people would probably say that i don't act my age, either). but the longer i'm around the more i'm reminded, as a good friend of mine frequently tells me, our society is built around the adoration of the young. although i hate to make these sorts of distinctions, i'd say that it's more true for women than it is for men. the phrase "eligible bachelor" is frequently applied to men who are well advanced in years. you don't hear too many women referred to as such. to be perceived as attractive, vital and worthy, women are supposed to be younger. (i'm not simply referring to the perceptions of the average and dull, either, but those of people, particularly men, who are intelligent and whom i respect.)

what bothers me most about this is that it bothers me at all, since, on an rational level, i know there's nothing i can do to shape perceptions at large, and i'm going to age whether i want to or not. i like to think that i'm beyond these sorts of things. but if we were all controlled completely by rationality, the world would be both less troubled and less interesting.

i'm going to do my best not to get whiny about this over the next several weeks, since i know it drives me crazy when people get mopey about things that they can neither change nor accept. at the very least, i am moving closer to menopause, when my hormones will rise up in a volcano of inverse puberty and rearrange my brain chemistry so that i no longer care.

16 July 2007

you must remember this

as part of an extremely mellow (read: post-night out) saturday, i ended up watching the movie casablanca for the first time in years.

as classic movies go, it's a pretty peculiar piece. we've all seen "classic" movies that have aged less than gracefully (go watch ben hur). and we've all seen movies that originated cliches that have stuck in the public psyche well beyond the scope of the original audience (that mad shout of "it's alive!" from frankenstein, for example). but it's hard to find another movie where so much of the script has been etched into popular memory.

part of that is because the script is just so repetitive. you know the line "here's looking at you kid" is one you're supposed to remember, because it crops up about every ten minutes. alternately, there's a line like "we'll always have paris" which is so contrived that i can't believe audiences in the forties didn't find it just as corny as it sounds today.

in retrospect, the studio's expectation that the film would be a box office disaster seems entirely reasonable.

and yet, somehow, the film maintains a lovable quality that's hard to resist. yes, looking back, humphrey bogart, like many icons of the time, is pretty one dimensional. and ingrid bergman is luminous, but her character, when you get down to it, really isn't that interesting. if the film rested on their shoulders, it probably wouldn't have been exceptional.

what is exceptional is the cast of background characters. sidney greenstreet and peter lorre, fresh from working with bogart on the maltese falcon, put in entertaining appearances. paul heinreid, in the uncomfortable role of the third corner of the love triangle, actually makes what could be a wimpy, insipid caricature of political virtue seem like the kind of guy you would leave the love of your life to help. conrad veidt, most famous now as the sinister somnambulist cesare in the cabinet of doctor caligari, was a particularly amusing choice for the nazi arch-villain major strasser. a staunch anti-nazi who had been known to claim to be a jew on government surveys (he was not), he had fled his home country after being blacklisted by hitler's government. (another interesting nugget: veidt's disfigured face in the silent horror classic the man who laughs was the inspiration for the illustrations of the joker in batman, making him party to another cultural cliche.)

of course, claude raines as the delectably unpredictable renault pretty much steals the whole film from under the noses of its stars. no matter what happens, it tends to be the guy that makes you laugh that you remember the best. (and of course, he is the agent of that quirky, neither happy nor tragic ending that helps lift the movie above garden variety melodrama.)

movies from the forties, suffused as they often were in the politics and morals of the day (more so, for instance, than a lot of films from the twenties), seem pretty creaky in retrospect, but the ones that stand out tend to be the ones where someone had the good sense to pay attention to the details rather than just the foreground.

09 July 2007

ow, dammit... ow

somehow, i just managed to smash an almost full 1 litre bottle of worcestershire (oh i know i spelled it wrong, i don't care... no one can spell it without looking) sauce on my foot. (i was trying to rescue a bottle of balsamic vinegar that had tipped over and was threatening to spill...)

as i was cleaning up the brown, sticky, yet surprisingly nice smelling mess, i figured it would be a good idea to turn the heat down on the chili i was cooking. as i reached over to turn down the heat, some oil came spurting up out of the hot pan, nailing me directly in the eyes.

i'll just clarify this in case anyone was wondering: hot oil with lots of spices really hurts when it gets in your eyes, i don't care how tough you are.

so somehow, after staggering around blind for a few minutes, i have managed to recover.

i’m so excited to see what tomorrow brings!

08 July 2007

i was never a particularly huge fan of tony blair's. i know a lot of people who were high on him early on, because he was shaking up the crusty old labour party in the united kingdom, but mostly because he was actually making it possible for them to get elected again. myself, i'm a little suspicious of any change that is based primarily on making yourself more palatable to the masses, but i guess that's why i'm writing this blog and not running a country.

but even blair's most die hard fans, and i'm assuming they still exist, would have to wince at his desperation to be named the new middle east envoy. myself, i can't even fathom why he would want the job, but it seems to me like someone might not want to stray to far from the spotlight (whether that's because he likes the attention or because he's plotting a comeback is anyone's guess).

now that his good (only?) friend george w. bush has strong-armed him into the position, the rest of the world can sit back and feel nauseated at the pure cynicism it represents.

blair replaces former world bank president james wolfensohn, who, no matter what you might think of him, could at least claim to have a modicum of respect from all parties in the region. blair, being one of the leaders responsible for the invasion of iraq, can have no hope of claiming respect or even credibility when dealing with key players in the middle east. appointing him seems to be nothing short of an acknowledgment that the task of diplomacy in the middle east is seen as a lost cause and there is no plan to put a serious effort into it.

chalk up another victory for the politics of hope.

two fer

turns out that this week is not merely notable for the 7/7/7 date that just passed (i missed it- did the world end?). there are two laudable events that deserve your attention:

1. it's the anniversary of the roswell ufo incident. probably the most (in)famous ufo sighting(?) ever, it has become a buzzword for conspiracy theorists and the governments who love to hate them. it's also apparently a continuing boon for the local economy, which raises some conspiratorial thoughts in and of itself.

2. because we tend to think of the 50s as the height of post-war, birth-of-suburbia, consumerist conservatism, it's a little shocking to look back at just what some people were able to get away with. it might have been hard to pitch the idea of a short film involving two gender-bending arch-rivals in a fight to the (tragic) death with children as its apparent target audience, but this week also marks the 50th anniversary of the release of what may be the greatest cartoon ever made (don't take my word for it).

02 July 2007

lives lived


i thought it might be worthwhile to post a little further information on the woman responsible for the "cat" video (see earlier post) that so enchanted me.

aside from her fondness for cats, maya deren lived a remarkable life, being a figurehead in the world of experimental film, as well as the observer and documenter of various ritual phenomena, from the world of dance, which fascinated her early on, to her later interest in haitian voudoun. she collaborated with some of the artistic luminaries of her day, such as marcel duchamp and anais nin.

in fact, the woman almost overshadows her work at times, leaving controversy in her wake, even through her untimely death.

enjoy her films at your leisure.
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