The Edge of Film
|Luke Allnutt and Richard Solash ||May 26th 2012|
|credit: Andry Bashtovy/RFE|
Horror fans are in for a treat with the release this week of “Chernobyl Diaries.”
Faithful to the genre, six young American tourists go on an extreme tour to the Chornobyl fallout zone and the emptied-out city of Pripyat, with its sprawling concrete housing projects and abandoned schools and hospitals. The perky adventure-seekers get stranded and trouble ensues at the hands of radiation-mutated predators. Fans of exploitation cinema might be happy, but support groups for victims of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster are not.
Robert Schuettpelz, the director of Friends of Chernobyl Centers, U.S., a nonprofit that provides financial support to five community centers in Ukraine situated within or near contaminated areas, says the film is upsetting. “I’ve been working with Chornobyl survivors for the past eight years and after what I’ve seen and after I’ve got to know them, seeing this movie and the trailers, and the information about it, it’s kind of upsetting to see that they decided to make this movie and make light of the real situation in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia,” Schuettpelz says. “People are still living with the after-effects of this every day—even 26 years after.” Read more ..
|Murray Polner||May 25th 2012|
The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in U.S. History. Chase Madar. New York: OR Books. 2012.
Bradley Manning enlisted in the army in 2007. In the army he began exhibiting a good many personal problems. Jihrleah Showman, one of Manning’s team leaders, cautioned his commanders that his mental state was too fragile to handle classified materials -- he once even hit her. At his pre-trial hearing, there was much testimony about his alleged “psychotic issues” and ignored warnings that he should not permitted access to secret data.
Even so, on the verge of being discharged because of his erratic behavior in the army, he was trained as an intelligence analyst and assigned to Iraq’s Forward Operating Base Hammer. Soon after he was promoted to the rank of specialist and received a top secret security clearance and given access to classified Defense and State Department data. He is now being court-martialed for allegedly having transmitted some of that data to an “enemy,” and accused of giving hundreds of thousands of confidential military and government documents to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.
Chase Madar, a lawyer whose writings have been published in the London Review of Books, the American Conservative, TomDispatch, and LeMonde Diplomatique, is out with the first book about Manning’s case. It's a blistering and confrontational work replete with charges that officials who approved of torture and lied about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have never been held responsible. Madar is certainly not neutral. His book begins with “Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” If he gave WikiLeaks “the Iraq war logs, the Afghan war logs, and the State Department cables -- then he surely deserves some important national honor instead of the military prison cell where he presently awaits court-martial.” The question is whether Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old Catholic son of a broken marriage between an Oklahoma father and Welsh mother, is an intentional traitor or an unintentional hero with many emotional problems. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
On Wednesday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, sent out two biting letters in response to the internal CIA and Department of Defense email messages obtained by a leading public-interest group regarding the planned Sony Pictures movie on the mission in which a U.S. Navy SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden.
Once the documents were released by Judicial Watch officials, who obtained them via a court order following the group's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the more questions about national security taking a backseat to political ambition arose, according to a report by the Law Enforcement Examiner. Advertisement “Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal may have set out to tell a blockbuster, election-year story about one of the most highly classified operations in American history, but through these emails they’ve ended up telling a damning story of extremely close, unprecedented, and potentially dangerous collaboration with top officials at the CIA, DoD, and the White House and a top Democratic lobbying firm,” Congressman King stated. “After reviewing these emails, I am even more concerned about the possible exposure of classified information to these filmmakers, who as far as I know, do not possess security clearances. Read more ..
Afghanistan on Edge
Music in Afghanistan is perhaps best known, particularly in the West, for falling silent. The Taliban infamously beat musicians, destroyed instruments, and publicly burned recordings in the name of that regime's extreme version of Islam. Nearly as soon as the Taliban fell, in late 2001, disquieted musicians within and outside the country took steps to revive Afghanistan's unique musical tradition. One was Ahmad Sarmast, a musicologist who returned to his native Afghanistan to open an academy at the very site where his own musical education began as a boy.
"Establishing and promoting music education is part of returning the musical right of Afghans back to them," Sarmast says. "Every Afghan should have the ability to listen to music, practice and learn music, and to express themselves through music." Two years after opening its doors, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul instructs some 150 students from their first note through their graduation as seasoned musicians. Students get a well-rounded education: Half the day is spent on math, science, literature, and other subjects, while the other half is dedicated to music. Read more ..
|Robin Lindley||May 24th 2012|
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. Rachel Maddow. Random House. 2012. 288 pages.
Though we are at war, most of us do not see its reality. As a nation, we are more and more distant from the suffering of the men and women who do our fighting and less and less able to influence our leaders, who squander billions of dollars on national security to the detriment of the domestic economy and our democratic institutions -- without making us safer.
These are the tenets of Rachel Maddow's new book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (Random House), which introduces the modern national security state and explains how it imperils America's democratic values, sacrificing real humans, often for unclear or questionable aims.
Maddow, who appeared April 14 at Town Hall in Seattle, is best known as the host of her witty MSNBC political talk program, The Rachel Maddow Show, but her accolades go far beyond her broadcasting accomplishments. She is a Rhodes Scholar with a doctorate in political science from Oxford, which no doubt contributes to her ability to deftly explain the intricacies of foreign policy and constitutional law for a broad audience -- with acerbic wit. As the daughter of an Air Force captain, she also grew up with a concern for military matters.
Drift explains, in compelling and clear prose, how the military's role changed as presidential power in foreign policy expanded and Congress ceded its constitutional authority to declare war. It is a change Maddow traces back to Lyndon B. Johnson, who ignored Congress as he expanded the U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam. Since Johnson, each successive administration has expanded the president's power on national security and eliminated their responsibility to Congress or public objections. Richard Nixon famously claimed that if the president does it, it’s not illegal. But it is the Reagan administration that Maddow singles out for its hypermilitarism, fear mongering, and radical expansion of executive authority. Reagan, Maddow writes, “claimed the private right to go to war, in secret, against the express will of the Congress.” Read more ..
Authors and Books
|Stefanos Skarmintzos||May 24th 2012|
|Odysseus (r) and Diomedes (l), stealing King Rhesus' horses.|
Any reference to Homer’s works brings to mind the heroic ideal. Yet Homer is not squeamish in describing his heroes’ feats of stealth and cunning. The tenth rhapsody of the Iliad is almost a blueprint of how special operations were conducted at the time of the Trojan War. Its principles hold true even our high tech era.
Rhapsody nine tells us that the Greeks, hard pressed by the Trojans, retreated to their fortified camp. But they appointed two heroes, Antilochos and Mereones, to be in command of detachments posted outside the camp's perimeter. In other words, an active security and early warning system. The Trojans, elated by their victory, camp in the field among the dead of the battle and post sentries but make no attempt to create a defensive perimeter.
In rhapsody 10, Agamemnon - the Greek commander in chief - decides to obtain intelligence about the enemy’s activity and intentions. He asks for volunteers. His vassal Diomedes, king of Argos, accepts the mission but says it is better if he does not go alone. (Note: even today scouts and snipers are better operating in pairs). Diomedes, who is recognized by his peers an active a fighter tails Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, as his second. He says that a man with active intellect is always a good companion. The two heroes who undertake the mission of an active night patrol are the ideal combination of aggressiveness and ingenuity, which is even today is sought in special operations.
In the Trojan camp, Prince Hector who commands the Trojans and their allies, learns that king Rhesus of Thrace has come as an ally. Euripides, not Homer, gives the details here. Hector is angry that the Thracians did not come earlier but just in time to finish off the Achaeans and demand a portion of the spoils. Rhesus says that he had to secure his borders from the Scythians first. Read more ..
The Edge of Film
|Alan Silverman||May 24th 2012|
In her first movie, "Caramel," Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki took viewers to a Beirut beauty parlor where women tried to deal with unending war. Her new film takes the theme to a dusty village, where Christian and Muslim women try to stop their men from killing each other. "Where Do We Go From Here?" opens with a group of black-clad women moving slowly from the village toward the cemetery. But, instead of walking, they sway and slide in a mystical dance, establishing the film as a fable which is not specifically set in the writer-director's native Lebanon.
"The film is intended to be a sort of a fairy tale," Labaki says. "It starts with this voice saying, 'I'm going to tell you a story,' as if somebody was telling you 'Once upon a time, there was this village where women were going to bring peace.' But I didn't want to relate it to any specific place or time. I wanted it to be more universal, because this conflict I am talking about could have happened between two families, two brothers, two friends, even two football teams." To distract their men, the women will try anything from cooking special treats laced with hashish to importing a busload of European exotic dancers.
While Labaki tells her story with humor, at its core is a serious issue she knows all too well. "In Lebanon, unfortunately, I don't know one person that hasn't lived a tragedy related to war," she says. "I am also fascinated and inspired by all the women in my family that have lost children during the war and that are still wearing black until now. I look at these women and I wonder, 'How do they do it?'" While the situations in the film are exaggerated, the filmmaker believes the women's hopes are real. "Even if some people say it is too simplistic to say women are wiser than men, it is not the intention," she says. "I am just trying to [show]the scream of a woman and of a mother that says, 'We have had enough. Stop making wars for stupid reasons.'" Labaki also co-stars in the film, and at one point, her character says, "Do you think we are here just to mourn you? To wear black forever?Is that what being a man means?" Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||May 23rd 2012|
Cutting Edge senior contributor
Academy Award winning author and screenwriter William Peter Blatty, whose best-selling book and blockbuster film The Exorcist were situated at his alma mater, Georgetown University, announced on May 18 that he will lead a petition to the Catholic Church for "remedies up to and including the possible removal or suspension of top-ranked Georgetown’s right to call itself Catholic or Jesuit in its fundraising and representations to applicants." This would mean submitting the petition to the Vatican's apostolic nuncio, or ambassador, to the United States and later to Vatican authorities for review for possible violations of canon law. Canon law refers to the internal system of regulations and tribunals within the Catholic Church.
The move comes on the heels of a rebuke of Georgetown and its first lay president, John J. DeGioia, by Cardinal Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, over Georgetown’s invitation to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to be a diploma ceremony speaker. Sebelius is a Catholic.
The editors of the newspaper published by the Washington archdiocese wrote in a May 13 editorial regarding Georgetown, “When the vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching, there are, of course, disappointing results.” Linking GU’s non-compliance with Church law to GU’s regular scandals, the website tracks the editorial the newspaper of the Washington diocese. “Twenty two years of GU scandals, since Ex corde Ecclesiae (ECE) was promulgated, are not just proof of a failed Catholic identity, they are evidence and a direct result of Georgetown’s failure to comply with ECE.”
Ex Corde Ecclesiae refers to a document promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1992 that sought to define Catholic institutions of higher learning. In order to refer to themselves as 'Catholic,' such institutions must seek affirmation from the Vatican or local bishops. It has been viewed as a rejection of a position paper affirmed in 1967 by Catholic universites (including Notre Dame and Georgetown, among others), called the 'Land O'Lakes' Statement, which sought to establish a certain level of independence for these institutions. Read more ..
The Edge of Terrorism
A Washington, DC-based group that investigates, exposes, and combats government corruption at the highest levels, surprised members of the news industry by obtaining documents that one source said "were almost as hard to get from the Obama administration as buying a winning lottery ticket at the local grocery store." What is revealed in these records is disturbing, even shocking, say a number of counterterrorism and political experts.
The noted -- and feared by a number of politicos -- public-interest organization, Judicial Watch, reported on May 21 that its officials obtained records from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency regarding meetings and communications between Obama-run federal agencies and veteran filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow, the ex-wife of director James Cameron (Titanic), garnered an Oscar for her direction of The Hurt Locker, an acclaimed motion picture about a U.S. Army bomb disposal unit in Iraq at the height of the insurgency.
According to the newly obtained records, the Obama Defense Department granted Bigelow and her screenwriter Mark Boal access to a “planner, Operator and Commander of SEAL Team Six,” the special forces unit that killed the world's most famous and most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, in a daring covert operation inside Pakistan on May 1, 2011. Read more ..
|James Bowman||May 23rd 2012|
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Director: John Madden. Starring: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel. Length: 124 minutes.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a Richard Curtis movie without Richard Curtis. Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and screenwriter Ol Parker have produced something a little more down-to-earth than the truly awful Love Actually (2003) by Mr. Curtis, but not by much. Both films treat the initiation of extramarital sexual congress in the same way Victorian novelists treated marriage, that is as a synecdoche for happiness and the reward of virtue.
Both, too, appear to regard this image of human felicity, treated as an unquestioned end in itself, the way Keats regarded his identification of truth and beauty: that is, as "all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." In practice, of course, everyone knows that this is absurd, just as the Victorians were not such fools as to suppose that marriages are always happy. But in neither case does that affect the literary usefulness of the symbolism, or what it tells us about our respective cultures.
What is mildly more interesting about Mr. Madden's movie as compared to Mr. Curtis's is the extent to which its theme of culture clash between contemporary Britain and India is at odds with and renders even more incoherent than it would otherwise be the theme of self-realization and self-fulfilment through sex. Both men would presumably call this self-fulfilment "love," but it signally lacks love's unselfishness and desire for permanence, its resolution and its well-known downside, which is what makes resolution necessary to the hope of permanence.
Mr. Madden's tale of seven elderly English folk seeking a cheap retirement community and, as some of them are more aware than others, sexual hook-ups in Jaipur, India, thus reduces love among these old people to what it mostly is for young ones: namely, sexual attraction and response. The only married couple in the bunch can find their fulfilment only by splitting up. Read more ..
The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire and the War of 1812. Troy Bickham. Oxford. 2012. 344 pages.
The War of 1812, now in its bicentennial year, is widely regarded as an asterisk in American history. Sparked by a series of British decrees limiting U.S. trading rights during the Napoleonic era that were suspended even as the U.S. declared war, the conflict was a military draw that ended with the status quo ante. Andrew Jackson's celebrated victory at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 took place after peace terms had already been negotiated (though not yet ratified). As such, the War of 1812 seems not only unnecessary, but just plain stupid.
In The Weight of Vengeance, Troy Bickham, who teaches at Texas A&M, does not assert that the war was fought over high-minded principle. But he does think it had a logic that transcended its stated grievances over trade, the legal status of sailors who may or may not have been British deserters, or the fate of Canadians and Indians in North America. These issues were real enough. But Bickham sees the war as effectively about the two nations' respective self-image. An insecure United States felt a need to assert itself as part of the family of civilized nations.
And Britain felt a need to put its former colony in its (subordinate) place. But neither belligerent was in a particularly good position to realize its objectives, and both were subject to considerable internal opposition to their official government positions. Bickham's parallel arguments seem mirrored by its structure. The book deftly alternates chapters that trace the pro-war and anti-war constituencies in both. For a while, it seems this approach to the subject, however admirably balanced, will only underline the way the various players effectively neutralized each other. But as his analysis proceeds, a decisive view of the war becomes increasingly clear -- and increasingly persuasive. Read more ..
The Edge of Film
|Courtney Brooks||May 20th 2012|
"Borat" and "The Dictator" star Sacha Baron Cohen has told BBC that the United Nations refused to let him film scenes from his most recent movie on its premises for fear the move could upset dictators. He told BBC Radio 4's "Today" program, "The interesting thing is, when we asked to shoot inside the United Nations, they actually refused. "We said, 'This is a pro-democracy movie.' They said, 'That's the problem -- we represent a lot of dictators, and they are going to be very angry by this portrayal of them, so you can't shoot in there."
In "The Dictator," Baron Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, which he says is a parody of tyrants such as former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman, Martin Nesirky, was questioned by a reporter on the matter on May 18. He responded simply, "Sacha Baron Cohen has a wonderful sense of humor". Read more ..
The Edge of Film
|Zachary Lichaa||May 19th 2012|
|Harvey Weinstein, Ron Agam, Bernard Henri Levy|
(credit: Nicolas Rachline)
French artist Ron Agam’s friendships with Bernard-Henri Levy and Harvey Weinstein led to one of the most high profile film deals heading into this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Weinstein, who has just purchased the rights to “The Oath of Tobruk”—Bernard-Henri Levy’s documentary that tells the tale of Muammar Gaddafi’s fall from power and eventual death—was told about the project when Agam set up a meeting between the two titans of their respective fields.
“Harvey Weinstein is the most serious movie distributor in the world and I felt that Levy, being one of the world’s most important philosophers and political activists, to bring the two of them together would be an incredible moment,” Agam recounted. Levy traveled to Libya after the civil unrest began there in early 2011 and met with Libyan rebels, before returning to meet with then French President Nicolas Sarkozy to brief him on what was happening on the ground. Read more ..
The Edge of Film
A new film, Father's House, sponsored by the Burmese comedian and political activist, Zarganar, hopes to raise the plight of Burmese migrant workers to a wider audience - especially to people back in Burma. The film’s location highlights the often harsh realities many workers face employed in the fishing, construction and rubber plantation industries.
Deep in a rubber plantation in southern Thailand’s Phangnga province a Burmese migrant community gathers, drawn to the making of a film that depicts the story of the lives and hardships faced by the migrant workers. An organization assisting migrants in southern Thailand, the Foundation for Education and Development, says there are up to 100,000 migrant workers in the region of Phuket and Phangnga, many of whom are undocumented.
The migrant workers are often perceived as almost invisible; but play a key role in the regional economy on rubber plantation, in construction and fishing industries, in areas of work that Thais often shun. But the stories of migrant workers are little known inside Burma says foundation secretary Mallika Ketthaisong. Read more ..
|James Bowman||May 18th 2012|
Margaret. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan and Martin Scorcese. Starring Matthew Broderick, Matt Damon, Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo. Length: 150 minutes.
"Spring and Fall" by Gerard Manley Hopkins — which begins (accent marks signifying Hopkins’s artificial or "sprung" rhythm)
Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving? —
is probably his most famous poem and the one that, if you know anything about Hopkins, you must have heard and admired. But for all its admirable qualities, it sounds rather cynical and solipsistic. Musically it definitely has something to be said for it, but the conclusion in particular seems a bit too neat.
Death, change, transition, the passage of time, all these are the "It" which, the poem tells us, are "the blight man was born for," but if Margaret is cast into melancholy reflection or even grief by these things, then to go on to say as the poem’s last line does that "It is Margaret you mourn for" suggests the girl is, as we all are, trapped in the prison of self. Surely, it’s not just Margaret she mourns for? For most people, in fact, it is not even primarily themselves they mourn for. When we lose something or someone we love and mourn the loss, it is the thing or person lost which is the object of our mourning, if you want to call it that. We mourn for ourselves only in the banal sense that we are the ones who have suffered the loss. That’s not at all the same thing as saying we’re mourning for ourselves. Read more ..
The Edge of Film
|Juda Engelmayer||May 17th 2012|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
|Yoni and Tutti Netanyahu|
Now that Israel’s early elections have been called off, there may be a sigh of relief among supporters of the Jewish state who feel that a new order will form in the country. The fact that a new so called unity government has now been formed, with the needs of the religious and the secular communities allegedly being addressed equally, could offer the stability the country needs to handle its external enemies without having to worry as much about the internal strife tearing it apart. That remains to be seen, but the hope is being restored.
When events such as the reformation of the government occur, it behooves the country to do as good a job as it can to spread the word far and wide proclaiming the positive. Too often some media and forces opposed to Israel harnesses morsels of negativity and portray those as the driving forces of the people and government of Israel. Israel is often its own worst enemy when it comes to public relations; its Hasbara, as it is referred to, is often too defensive and focused in shades of black and white, and therefore can seem harsh and selfish. Read more ..
|John McAdams||May 17th 2012|
Castro's Secrets: The CIA and Cuba's Intelligence Machine. Brian Latell. Palgrave Macmillan. 2012. 288 pages.
History is quite frequently distorted by ideological bias, and nothing shows this better than the corpus of JFK assassination books. Written by people on the political left, they almost uniformly want to blame some group on the right for John Kennedy’s death. Of course, it’s far from the case that all voices to the left of center have claimed a right-wing conspiracy. The liberal mainstream media have had little truck with conspiracy theories, and hard left voices like Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn and The Nation have often insisted that Lee Harvey Oswald did it all by himself.
But pick up your average conspiracy book and most likely the culprits will be some of those bêtes noires of the left: the CIA, the FBI, anti-Castro Cubans, rich Texas oil millionaires, and so on. The conspiracists’ fruitless half-century fixation with these groups makes Captain Ahab’s obsession with the Great White Whale look like a passing summer afternoon fancy.
In this context, this volume from longtime CIA Cuba analyst Brian Latell has some value as a corrective. Conspiracy theorists, typically in thrall of Camelot and, if not outright fans of Castro, then at least rather mellow toward the Caribbean dictator, have downplayed the enmity between Castro and Kennedy.
But Latell gives a full account of the incendiary mutual denunciations that the American president and the Cuban leader directed at each other. Likewise, he makes it clear (in the tradition of writers like Gus Russo and Max Holland) that the impetus behind assassination attempts on Castro came from the highest levels of the Kennedy administration, with Bobby being John’s chief honcho in dealing with the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans.
Where assassination writers have wanted to believe that Kennedy, at the time he was killed, was preparing to make nice-nice with Castro, Latell makes it clear that Kennedy would only accept a “Tito solution.” Castro would have to end his alliance with the Soviet Union and quit trying to export revolution. But of course, Castro was never going to do that. Read more ..
The Edge of Film
|Alan Silverman||May 14th 2012|
|Johnny Depp plays Barnabas Collins in ”Dark Shadows”|
(photo courtesy Warner Bros.)
Dark Shadows. Director: Tim Burton. Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter. Length: 133 min.
A soap opera from the 1960s gets a makeover in director Tim Burton’s new horror-comedy: ”Dark Shadows,” which features his favorite lead actor, Johnny Depp.
In the 1770s, a curse turned Barnabas into a vampire. In 1972, a construction crew digs up his coffin and the denizen of the dark finds his way back to what remains of the Collins estate. His cousin Elizabeth, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, thinks he can restore the Collins line to its former greatness. But Barnabas soon discovers that Angelique, the witch who cursed him, is still around.
Johnny Depp plays Barnabas, angst-ridden by his fate and confused by the world in which he awakes. “The idea of this very elegant gentleman who is brought back to probably the most surreal era of our times, the 1970s. How he would react to things like ‘pet rocks’ and troll dolls and lava lamps,” explains Depp. “What was most interesting in terms of Barnabas was to make that guy, clearly a vampire, fit into this odd society and this dysfunctional family,” the star adds. Read more ..
|Joseph Morrison Skelly||May 14th 2012|
The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel–Islamist Conflict. Jonathan Spyer. Continuum, 2010. 227 pages.
“People walked from tank to tank, shaking hands with friends, wishing each other luck. I remember standing with my friend Ariel Ronen and exchanging a few brief words before we boarded. Blond Ariel, in civilian life the owner of a marketing business in Petah Tikva, was a tank driver from platoon 2. Unlike me, he had a practical, military bent to him, and was standing, watching affairs with a worried furrow to his brow. ‘We aren’t ready for this,’ he said, as we shook hands. I looked at him quizzically, but he declined to elaborate, adding simply, ‘Not all of us will be coming back.’ ‘We will,’ I reassured him, assuming the fatherconfessor role that I had awarded myself in the previous days. He didn’t reply.” (p. 13).
With this passage, and others like it, Jonathan Spyer recounts his experiences serving in the Lebanon War of 2006. A soldier in an Israeli armored reserve unit, a columnist with The Jerusalem Post, and a research fellow in civilian life, Spyer deftly interweaves his battlefield recollections with a sustained assessment of the strategic challenges facing Israel. The result is an insightful, important, and at times pensive volume, one that is part memoir and part sophisticated political analysis. The main threats facing Israel today, Spyer asserts, are Islamist states and organizations—enemies that not only loom on the horizon, such as Iran, but ones such as Hamas and Hizbullah that lurk closer to home, raining down rockets into the nation’s heartland.
The Jewish State operates within a daunting strategic environment. In confronting those challenges, Spyer rightly draws strength from his comrades-in-arms in the Israeli Defense Forces, whose powerful and poignant stories he sympathetically retells. Israel, too, can draw strength from their stoic determination as it formulates and executes a national strategy for defeating the Islamist threats arrayed against it. Read more ..
John B. Thompson. Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century (2nd ed.). Polity Press, 2012. 440 pages.
John B. Thompson begins this book with a publishing anecdote that will be familiar even to those on the margins of the business: the story of how Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, gave a talk in 2007 as part of a series at the university with the title “The Last Lecture.” As it turned out, Pausch was dying of pancreatic cancer, giving his well-received presentation an element of poignance that generated a wave of national publicity. What proved truly stunning, however, was how eager New York publishers were to acquire the book that became The Last Lecture: Pausch, a first-time big-time author was paid a $6.75 million advance by Hyperion, a Disney company. How could that possibly make sense?
In 400 chiseled pages, Thompson explains why such an offer came about, and why it made sense—indeed, The Last Lecture proved to be a lucrative acquisition for Hyperion. He does so with the methodological acumen of the sociologist he is (at the University of Cambridge). Thompson conducted hundreds of interviews for Merchants of Culture, supplemented by new interviews with many of his sources for this newly released second edition of the book (the first was published in 2010). Much of Thompson's analysis builds on that of his 2005 book Books in the Digital Age, which focused on scholarly publishing. Here he focuses on trade publishing, the hyper-commercial industry focused in New York and London.
It's in the nature of any project of this sort that it stands to date quickly. But Thompson has done a notably good job of keeping his findings timely—the figures here run into mid-2011, capturing the arrival of the e-book transformation of the industry at that moment it shifted from an abstract possibility to an increasingly evident reality. In some sense, however, the book feels fresh and up-to-date because of an intuitive grasp of temporal proportion; his perspective dates back to the corporate consolidation of the publishing industry in the 1970s, and he traces trends that in many cases have been decades in the making. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|The circus train in 1992 (credit: James G. Howe)|
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey is America’s longest-running circus company. It began performances in the early 1890s, and more than a century later, the company maintains many of the traditions of the circus, including travel by train, which is home to hundreds of performers. Its newest show is called “Dragons.” Ringmaster Jonathan Iverson, a former opera singer, joined the circus about 10 years ago. He was drawn by the history and mystique of the company which calls itself “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
“The part of that mystique is the world’s largest privately owned train. I love the train,” Iverson says. “Three hundred fifty performers and cast and crew and animals are actually traveling on rails across America. That is the world’s greatest carpool.” That car pool—with 60 cars—is more than a kilometer-and-a-half long and crisscrosses the country for 11 months a year.
Iverson shares his train car with his wife, a dancer in the show, and their two children. Like the other families on the train, they cook and eat, take showers and do laundry—live their lives—in the privacy of their own car. “It is so much fun. It gives us sort of like a mini-vacation every week,” Iverson says. “We really see the country. America is really, really beautiful.” Read more ..
The Ancient Edge
|Rosanne Skirble||May 11th 2012|
Archeologists working among the ruins of a 9th century Mayan town in Guatemala have discovered a room filled with extraordinarily well-preserved artwork. The colorful wall paintings provide new insights into how Mayan astronomers charted the cosmos.
Xultun was the largest city in the ancient Mayan empire in Central America, where, at its height, an estimated 90,000 people lived and worked among pyramids, inscribed monuments, water reservoirs and sport fields. But by the 14th century, the Mayan civilization had collapsed and this great city fell with it. In 1920, Xultun was rediscovered, overgrown with vegetation. Work to map the 31 square-kilometer site and decode the myriad inscriptions on its monuments continues to this day. In 2008, Boston University archeologist William Saturno was exploring tunnels in the Xultun ruins that had been opened by looters in the 1970s. One day his student assistant, Max Chamberlain, discovered the entranceway - close to the surface but hidden by vegetation - to a room-like structure. “Max thought he saw the remnants of paint on the walls of this fairly small Maya structure,” Saturno says.
Read more ..
The Edge on Art
|Ricci Shryock||May 11th 2012|
|Self-portrait, Malvin Gray Johnson|
(photo Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum)
The West African man is dressed in the khaki uniform and red fez worn by French colonial soldiers of the era. But he wasn’t a French soldier—he was a famous Senegalese dancer based in Paris at the time, François Benga.
Now immortalized in James A. Porter’s 1935 painting, “Soldado Senegales,” his portrait today hangs among the many art works on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era and Beyond” exhibit. Though not all of the exhibit’s works claim African influence, the portrait by Porter is one of the many examples of the close relationship between the U.S.-based Harlem Renaissance and the Negritude movement in France.
The Harlem Renaissance, which began in the U.S. around 1919, emerged as a movement to challenge racism and stereotypes through the arts. Just a decade later, Africans living in France, who were influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, developed their own style— Negritude—as a way to use art to throw off French colonial racism.
“There’s a very close relationship, because these artists, particularly those who are in France in the 1930s and into the 1940s, were very much connected with what was going on in French art, literature, thought,” said Virginia Mecklenburg, a senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The poet Langston Hughes is also talking about things like tradition and heritage and how something that was originally African, how it transforms in a sort of river as it flows into and is the source really for culture in other countries in the diaspora, including in the United States.” Read more ..
|Martin Barillas||May 11th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
A creative pair of Dutch film makers are taking on one of the world's worst crimes: human trafficking. Konraad Lefever and Duval Guillaume directed a video (see here) for YouTube to promote StopTheTraffik - a human rights advocacy group based in the UK that seeks to criminalize the sale of human beings, who largely end up in the international sex trade.
Set in Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District, the pair filmed scantily clad young women who posed behind glass at street level as passersby to evaluate them as prostitutes. For decades young women, and some men, have posed at the street-level brothels in displays reminiscent of department store windows. The film-making pair used this to another purpose as they filmed six women who at first appear to beckon the men who pass by on the street with come-hither glances and beckoning gestures. Read more ..
The Way We Are
May 8, 1977. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University’s barn-like Barton field house, specifically. On that particular Sunday evening, for the princely sum of $7.50—$6.50 for students—you could buy one general admission ticket (assuming you could find any for sale) to hear a performance by the Grateful Dead.
For the Dead it was just another gig on an unending tour; the Ithaca stop was sandwiched between New Haven’s Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum and Buffalo’s War Memorial Coliseum. Fairly to form, the band played 20 songs that night, starting with “New Minglewood Blues” and wrapping with the classic “One More Saturday Night.” Along the way they hit a number of fan favorites like “Fire on the Mountain,” “Not Fade Away” and “Morning Dew.”
At the time, May 8th was just another performance by the Dead, an enduring American band that had long attracted its own rolling culture of scruffy fans, hippies, dope-smokers, and assorted others who followed the band from show to show. But for true “Deadheads,” it’s much, much more than that. For Deadhead Nation, May 8 is forever known simply as “Barton Hall.”
35 years later, the Dead’s spring 1977 tour is now the stuff of legend, with the Barton Hall show the most celebrated performance of the band’s career. “I started hearing from other Deadheads that the Barton show was famous,” Brad Krakow tells the Cornell Chronicle. One of the lucky attendees that night, Krakow characterized the Dead’s performance as “tight, no mistakes and inspired. It is funny now when friends ask if that is ‘The’ Barton Hall when visiting. It is an icon.”
But don’t take Krakow’s word for it. Download the entire concert and decide for yourself. In fact, why not download every concert the Grateful Dead ever played to compare and contrast? Go ahead—you can do it all for free, and without any copyright worries, thanks to a website called The Internet Archive. Read more ..
Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience abord the U.S.S. Monitor. David Mindell. Johns Hopkins Press. 2012. 208 pages.
Almost exactly 150 years ago, two warships fought the battle of the future.
The duel was the Battle of Hampton Roads, just off the coast of Virginia, during the U.S. Civil War. The ships were the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia, representing the Union and the Confederacy, respectively; it was the first time that two iron-clad ships engaged in combat.
As such, the iron ship constituted a “high-tech super-weapon,” changing the nature of battle, as MIT historian David Mindell asserts in the preface of a new edition of his book on the subject, Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the U.S.S. Monitor (Johns Hopkins Press).
The Monitor was supposed to settle battles through its technological superiority, with vaunted innovations such as its armor and a rotating gun turret. Yet the ship also placed punishing new physical demands on its crew. In this way, the Monitor was “a prototype of modern military technology, with all of its apparent benefits and limitations, fighting new kinds of wars on new kinds of battlefields and forging new kinds of heroes,” Mindell writes.
Mindell, the Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing and professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, began researching the book soon after the Gulf War in 1991, a conflict featuring advances in missile technology. He concludes that even newer military technologies, such as pilotless drones, have only increased the significance of studying how military leaders expect technology to settle battles — and how new weaponry changes the role and ethos of the solider. Read more ..
|Aaron Leonard||May 6th 2012|
Molotov: Stalin's Cold Warrior. Geoffrey Roberts. Potomac Books. 2011. 254 pages.
Geoffrey Roberts introduces us to Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov in 1976, long after he has left power. Molotov tell us, “Not often, but sometimes I dream of Stalin. In extraordinary situations. In a destroyed city. I can’t find a way out. Then I meet him, in a word, strange dreams, very confused.” Such disturbing dreams are not surprising. The twentieth century was, in many ways, the most awful time in human history: two world wars, famines, genocide and, for the latter half of the century, the specter of utter nuclear annihilation. Molotov, as premier of the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1941, Soviet foreign minister from 1939 to 1949 and again from 1953 to 1956, was more times than not at the center of it all.
Roberts presents a more nuanced picture of Molotov than other biographers, someone whose mind and meticulousness suited him to the exacting demands of representing the Soviets in the realm of foreign policy. Robert’s Molotov is not absolutely slavish to Stalin -- though when push comes to shove he falls into line -- and he is even less cowering in front of Khrushchev. Regardless, to review Molotov's life is to walk a tightrope, and Geoffrey Roberts does a fine job of doing so.
There is Molotov, the committed Communist selflessly sacrificing for what he saw as a more just world, only to end up in a position of authority during the Great Purge of the late 1930s with its effort to solve real, perceived, and imagined problems through the most horrific and unconscionable means. Then there is Molotov the face of Soviet foreign policy -- a policy that, when stripped of its socialist and internationalist pretenses, is too often driven by fierce nationalism.
Molotov’s pivotal role was during World War II, and it's here that things become most complicated -- and dire. When the Soviets could not broker a deal with England and France to stave off ascendant Germany in 1939, they made a deal ... with Germany. Negotiated by Molotov with the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, it meant Germany and the Soviets would not attack each other -- for the time being. The ink had hardly dried when the Germans took their then-cleared path to invade Poland, ushering in World War II. The Red Army followed seventeen days later, dividing Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union and paving the way for the Soviet annexations of the Baltic states, as well as the disastrous Winter War with Finland. Read more ..
Monsieur Lazhar. Director: Philippe Falardeau. Starring: Fellag, Marie-ve Beauregard, Nicole-Sylvie Lagarde. Length: 90 mins.
One of the best moments of Monsieur Lazhar by the Québécois writer-director Philippe Falardeau comes when 12-year-old Marie-Frédérique (Marie- ve Beauregard) rises in the midst of an impromptu (and forbidden) class discussion about the suicide of a teacher and says this: "Everyone thinks we’re traumatized by Martine’s suicide, but it’s the adults who are really."
The discussion has been forbidden on the advice of the school psychologist (Nicole-Sylvie Lagarde), acting as specialist grief counselor. She, by teaching them that grief is the province of some "expert" prepared to treat it as a pathological condition, would have robbed these children of the vital experience of learning how to deal with a normal but painful part of life. That the discussion breaks out anyway is thanks to their new Algerian teacher, the eponymous Monsieur Lazhar (Fellag) who, uncorrupted by specialist educational training, is generally prepared to disregard unnecessary and harmful rules laid down by those more expert than he.
To get the full impact of Marie-Frédérique’s moment of blinding insight, you have to take it in the context of an earlier discussion between her insufferable yuppie parents (Stéphane Demers and Nathalie Costa) and Monsieur Lazhar at a parents’ evening. Clearly, they have not come to learn anything from him about their daughter but rather to instruct him, in an offensively patronizing way, about how he should do his job. Equally clearly, Marie-Frédérique understands her parents and the adult world generally far better than they understand her or the educational process that must increasingly take place out of their sight, if it is to take place at all. One gathers that parents like these are not untypical these days, though they or anything like them would have been almost unheard of when I was a teacher. Read more ..
The Edge of Environment
It’s estimated that the environmental impact of a single “eReader” (Kindle, iPad…) equals that of 100 books.
Whether the motivation is to truly improve environmental performance, or simply garner positive press, seems every business is jumping on the low carbon bandwagon. Nowhere is exempt from the pressure to green up, not even the beleaguered (and beloved) book industry.
Three years ago, a group called the Book Industry Environmental Council (BIEC) set environmental targets for the American book business, aiming to reduce its baseline carbon footprint by 20 percent in 2020 and by 80% in 2050. The plan was hatched during the infancy of eBooks: Kindle had been around just over a year.
BIEC goals seem attainable. Technological advances slashed the volume of in-house printing. Editors move towards a paperless workflow. Publishers began to reassess traditional processes of creating, transporting, and storing books. The resultant enviro-friendly efficiencies could be replicated worldwide. Read more ..
The Edge of Music
|Catherine Hockmuth||May 4th 2012|
Can a computer be taught to automatically label every song on the Internet using sets of examples provided by unpaid music fans? University of California, San Diego engineers have found that the answer is yes, and the results are as accurate as using paid music experts to provide the examples, saving considerable time and money. In results published in the April 24 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that their solution, called “game-powered machine learning,” would enable music lovers to search every song on the web well beyond popular hits, with a simple text search using key words like “funky” or “spooky electronica.”
Searching for specific multimedia content, including music, is a challenge because of the need to use text to search images, video and audio. The researchers, led by Gert Lanckriet, a professor of electrical engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, hope to create a text-based multimedia search engine that will make it far easier to access the explosion of multimedia content online. That’s because humans working round the clock labeling songs with descriptive text could never keep up with the volume of content being uploaded to the Internet. For example, YouTube users upload 60 hours of video content per minute, according to the company. Read more ..
Edge on Archaeology
In archaeological work in the 2,000 year-old drainage channel between the City of David and the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, remains were discovered of the building closest to the First Temple exposed so far in archaeological excavations.
The remains of a building dating to the end of the First Temple period were discovered below the base of the ancient drainage channel that is currently being exposed in Israel Antiquities Authority excavations beneath Robinson’s Arch in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden, adjacent to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. This building is the closest structure to the First Temple found to date in archaeological excavations.
In the excavations, underwritten by the Ir David Foundation, a personal Hebrew seal from the end of the First Temple period was discovered on the floor of the ancient building. The seal is made of a semi-precious stone and is engraved with the name of its owner: "Lematanyahu Ben Ho…" ("למתניהו בן הו..." meaning: "Belonging to Matanyahu Ben Ho…"). The rest of the inscription is erased. Read more ..
The Edge of Art
|Viva Sarah Press||May 2nd 2012|
Road kill, for most people, is something you try not to look at too closely and leave behind. But for Walter Ferguson these misfortunate animals could be a prized treasure. Ferguson, one of the world’s preeminent wildlife artists, would never wish for a little creature to be maimed. However, if such an occurrence does happen, he sees the potential of bringing the animal back to life in his work.
“Art can contribute to the awareness of animals,” Ferguson says. “If you want to preserve an animal you need to show it.” Nearly all of the animal kingdom can be found in Ferguson’s work. His home in Beit Yanai — overlooking the Mediterranean coastline — is a private jungle with pictures of animals, birds and rodents lining the walls. Read more ..
The Edge of Urban Art
A neighborhood in the East Coast city of Baltimore is getting a facelift. Artists from across the United States and around the world are painting murals on buildings, some of which have been vacant for years. Freddy Sam is putting the finishing touches on a large mural with an elephant at one end and mountain in the center. “This is Table Mountain from back home,” he says. “I wanted to bring some nature to Baltimore.” Sam came from South Africa to participate in the program known as Open Walls. He’s painted murals across the world. “I get to learn about the world through painting art. If I came here as a tourist, I would never have seen Baltimore the way I saw it painting a mural.”
In fact, few tourists see this neighborhood, known as Station North. It fell on hard luck decades ago. But 10 years ago, it was designated an arts and entertainment district. Ben Stone, executive director of the Station North district, hopes the murals will attract more visitors. “Penn Station, our main train station, is in the district, so it's an easy area to get to, and this is another reason to come here.” Baltimore street artist, Gaia, curated Open Walls in the city’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District. His mural was one of the first to be completed.
Station North is also home to artists like Gaia. He’s curating Open Walls. “I wanted to choose people that weren’t necessarily the brightest stars, but were doing remarkable work throughout the world.” Like Interesni Kazki, a duo from Ukraine. Their mural features a fantasy walled city painted in bright yellow, red and orange. Individually the artists are known as Oleksii Bordusov and Vladimir Manzhos. Read more ..
SWAGGER: Ten Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture. Lisa Bloom. Vantage. 2012. 288 pages.
"At this very moment, through no fault of their own, our boys are caught in the vortex of four powerful, insidious, often invisible forces which conspire to rob them of their future.” Thus begins a provocative new book (on sale May 2012) from New York Times
bestselling author, attorney and mother Lisa Bloom: SWAGGER: Ten Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture.
We medicate, discipline, suspend and expel our boys from school at quadruple the rate of girls, attorney Lisa Bloom argues. We let double the number of boys drop out of high school than girls, and of those boys who do graduate, they are far more likely than their sisters to be illiterate, to fail to go to college, or to drop out of college if they do go. “Reading is girly,” many boys now say.
The unemployment rate for our teen boys and young men rivals that of Arab Spring countries. And because the fundamentals of our economy have changed dramatically in the last decade, boys without college degrees are not only left behind in young adulthood, they’re virtually guaranteed to be shut out of the middle class all their lives. Traditional “male” blue collar jobs? Mostly gone, and they’re not coming back.
As our failing schools and decaying economy batter boys, Bloom argues, our “thug culture” promotes an unprecedented level of viciousness and drug use. No longer on the fringe, “slap the bitch” music has gone mainstream. Our boys’ favorite video games have never met a problem they couldn’t fix with gun violence or carnage. In film and television, heroes prevail through murder and mayhem. And the most popular word in music over the last decade? Swagger.
Read more ..
The Edge of Film
|Golnaz Esfandiari||May 1st 2012|
Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi is reportedly planning screenings of his Oscar-winning film, "A Separation," to express solidarity with Afghan refugees in Iran. A number of other prominent Iranian filmmakers are also planning expressions of support amid reports of new restrictions targeting the country's Afghan population. Earlier this month, Iranian media quoted officials as saying that Afghans will be banned from the province of Mazandaran, a popular tourist destination. The reports also said Afghans living in the province had been given a June 20 deadline to vacate. Recent limitations imposed on Afghans have been reported in other cities as well, including Isfahan, where on April 1 -- Nature Day in Iran -- Afghans were barred from entering a park to celebrate. “Such inappropriate behavior toward immigrants in Iran -- a country that has one of the highest number of refugees in the world -- is bitter,” Farhadi was quoted as saying on April 29 by “Shargh” daily. Read more ..
The Performing Arts
|Chris Simkins||April 29th 2012|
The Howard Theater, a Washington, DC landmark, is reborn.
Some of the greatest African-American entertainers—including Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington—have performed at the Howard Theater. Some of them even launched their careers there. However, by 1980, The Howard, which is located in a traditionally African-American neighborhood, had fallen into disrepair and was set to be torn down.
But the arts community joined forces to save the building and restore it to its previous grandeur, and now the sound of music once again fills the historic venue, which has played—and continues to play—a big part in black history.
Built in 1910, it was the largest theater in the world for African-American entertainers and audiences. In the 1930s, Washington-born composer and big-band leader Duke Ellington made his mark at the Howard. Black artists like Diane Ross and the Supremes also graced its stage. Grammy award winning singer Marvin Gaye was discovered here. Read more ..
|James Bowman||April 26th 2012|
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. Directed by Morgan Spurlock. Starring Stan Lee, Seth Green, Seth Rogen.
The most interesting thing about Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope, a new documentary by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), is how shy and even shamefaced its author is about those ironies which, in his hands, would once have been piquant if not slashing. Comic-Con, the annual gathering in San Diego of the nation’s most fanatical aficionados of comic books and the various forms of cartoon or cartoon-like entertainment that are made from them, is a natural subject for satire, but Mr. Spurlock’s satirical sword appears to be blunted and his lance broken. Never hitherto reluctant to push himself in front of his own camera, here he hides from it like a nymph surprised at her toilette. We may deduce from this unaccustomed reticence that he is himself enough of a comix geek — or else he is so much in need of the cooperation of those who are — that he has to treat with the utmost sympathy and affection grown-up people who dress as superheroes or who travel thousands of miles to buy an "action figure" doll or those with real jobs who aspire, mostly in vain, to draw comic books for a living.
Satire, it’s true, is often at its most effective when the satirist can reveal a sneaking sympathy with his victim, but there’s nothing sneaking about Mr Spurlock’s sympathy. It’s rather the satire that sneaks. Having reined in his sense of the ridiculous for most of the film, he lets it have its head only very briefly at the very end in a series of interview comments made by some of those who have appeared, up until this point, as geek-like as himself.
The film ends with a comment by Kevin Smith, the barefoot and obese director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jersey Girl et cetera, who could also be the prototype of Comic Book Guy on "The Simpsons," to the effect that, if he had been alive in the 1940s, he would perforce have had to concern himself in some way with the fact that the world was at war. Not anymore. "Now it’s: ‘Did you see they changed Wonder Woman’s pants?’ That’s f***** up." Not that there’s anything wrong with that. F***** up it may be, but one suspects that that’s sort of what he likes about comic fandom. The same goes for Morgan Spurlock. Read more ..
Books and Authors
|Martin Barillas||April 25th 2012|
Cutting Edge Senior Correspondent
Adolf Hiter's autobiography Mein Kampf is poised to be published again in Germany, where Nazism took root and once flourished- some 67 years after it was last published in the country. The copyright for the hate-filled and racist book has been kept out of public view since the end of the Second World War by law, but will make a comeback in 2015 when the copyright expires. At that time, an annotated version will be made available to school across Germany.
The state of Bavaria, which became the heir to all of Hitler's works, property and money following his 1945 suicide in Berlin, claims the children should have copies available that include expert analysis and comments from historians which refute Nazi ideology, the Daily Mail reported. Even though it is legal to possess a copy of Mein Kampf, any printing or prominent displays of the book are prohibited out of concern that it may still inspire racism and Nazism.
Bavaria has now given permission for the rest of Germany to freely print the book, with includes diatribes against Jews and Slavs and the prophecy of a German war of conquest in the east. Mein Kampf, which translates as My Struggle or My Battle, is a combination of Hitler's autobiography and political ideology. Mein Kampf was written while he was in jail following the failed 1923 Munich Putsch and was published in 1925. The book includes racist diatribes against Jews and their 'twin evil', communism. Read more ..
Art in Nature
|Adam Phillips||April 25th 2012|
|Fluorescent coral Scolymia cubensis|
(credit: Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE)
Of all the wondrous survival strategies nature’s creatures have evolved, one of the most dazzling is the ability of some animals to generate light to find their prey, avoid becoming prey and to attract a mate.
A museum exhibit in New York explores this ability, known as bioluminescence. The American Museum of Natural History’s “Creatures of Light” exhibit features jellyfish that glow green, anglerfish whose lantern-like bulbs dangle from their foreheads, and luminous glowworms that hang mucus-like strands from cave ceilings to attract and ensnare their prey.
“Some of the stuff is just incredible,” says museum provost Michael Novacek, who's especially intrigued by the bioluminescent creatures that inhabit the deep oceans. “They are probably the most inventive of all the bioluminescent creatures because they have to be. Because it’s totally dark. So that’s probably where the greatest potential for discovery is, too. There are so many things down there we haven’t even described.”
Up to 90 percent of the habitable earth is underwater, and most of the animals that live in the pitch black water below depths of 700 meters are bioluminescent. That’s where the anglerfish and hatchetfish live. Read more ..
War Against the Weak
|Martin Barillas||April 23rd 2012|
Investigative journalist and author Edwin Black will launch the new expanded edition of his award-winning bestseller War Against the Weak during a live global event in the North Carolina General Assembly’s Legislative Auditorium in Raleigh, NC, at noon on April 25.
See the Live Global Launch here
The book has a special appendix on North Carolina’s program. During the launch event, Black will present his new findings on North Carolina’s program of eugenic genocide against its own citizens, which, he states, was executed in lockstep with national and Nazi eugenic leaders throughout America and in the Third Reich. After his presentation, Black will answer questions live from both audience members and remote participants worldwide. Advance requests have already come in from concentration camp scholars in Poland, genetic study groups in San Francisco, and from survivors of the North Carolina program.
NC State Rep. Earline Parmon of Winston-Salem will introduce the program and Black's presentation. Rep. Parmon, along with Rep. Larry Womble, has championed the cause of compensation for the state's surviving eugenic victims. More than 27 states joined the shameful decades-long utopian campaign of medically and legislatively engineered racial supremacy. But only one state, North Carolina, is now readying a massive plan of financial reparations to its surviving victims. Just how much North Carolina should pay—and who should write the check—is now the subject of a historically wrenching debate. Many suggest the legislature will vote $50,000 for each surviving victim.
The new appendix to War Against the Weak reveals that North Carolina eugenic officials in the 1930s and 1940s were less concerned about the state’s population than doing its bit to advance the worldwide campaign to create a Master Race. Raceologists at the apex of American eugenics were working with North Carolina officials. These include Harry Laughlin of the Carnegie Institution’s Eugenics Record Office. In 1938, Laughlin had set into motion Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross’s plan to declare thousands of Connecticut’s residents “unfit aliens,” and “deport” them to their “ancestral states,”including North Carolina. Under the state plan, never executed, Connecticut citizens would be stripped of their assets before deportation. It was presumed these “displaced” Americans would be so numerous and without funds, that they would be housed in receiver state confinement camps where they would be mass sterilized. Euthanasia, long a cause celebre of eugenicists, was also explored if a way could be found to make it legal. Laughlin’s plan was aborted when Governor Cross failed in his 1938 re-election bid. Nazi eugenics collapsed when the Third Reich fell in 1945. Read more ..
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