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Middle east expert Professor Juan Cole helps penetrate the fog of Administration and media disinformation about what's going on in Iraq. The US has no chance against this insurgency without massive troop increases and a nationwide will to "win"--which means what exactly? Making the country safe for a government friendly to US interests? Who cares about that except the neocon crazies and Americans deluded by simplistic Clint Black songs? By invading without a plan to manage the aftermath, Bush really put his foot in the bucket, to use a Texas expression. Americans are paying for this stupidity with precious lives and untold sums of tax dollars.
Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba said of Wednesday's horrific bombings in central Baghdad, which left over 40 dead and twice as many injured, "Those who commit these crimes are the same ones who specialized in mass murder during the era of the tyrant Saddam." He added, "They have a plan that is composed of two stages. The first is to spread terror and grief serially, in order to break the will of the Iraqi people. The second is to attempt to overthrow the government through spreading chaos in the land."
Kubba is in part correct and in part in error, and he left out something big. Some of those behind the campaign of car bombings and other acts of terror are the old Baathist power elite (especially military intelligence, elements of the officer corps, and the secret police or mukhabarat). But some of them are Sunni jihadis who would not have been allowed to operate in Baghdad by Saddam. And others were relatively apolitical in the Saddam era but have been galvanized by a conviction that their country is suffering foreign occupation (Anglo-American at least, and perhaps Iranian as well). So it isn't correct to say that the perpetrators are exactly the same group as put all those Shiites and Kurds in mass graves, though there is certainly an overlap. Note how different Kubba's discourse is from that of the Bush administration, which almost never talks about anything but "al-Qaeda" in Iraq. Here we have a high-level Iraqi spokesman, and all he sees in the insurgency are Baathists.
The important thing he left out is that the plan actually has three parts. First the guerrillas force the Americans and British out. Then they destabilize Iraq. Then they make a coup and kill the elected government, along with Sistani and anyone else who gets in their way. Since the guerrillas have so many former military officers and veterans in their ranks, and since they know where thousands of tons of hidden munitions are buried, they believe they still have an edge over the ragtag Shiite militias such as Badr Corps and Mahdi Army.
From Atomic Cinema, which has some of my favorite writing on movies:
Is 40 GUNS the weirdest Hollywood western? The question boils down to whether this is crazier than JOHNNY GUITAR. I think it is... JOHNNY GUITAR is crazy because Nicholas Ray wanted it to be crazy. Sam Fuller’s special gift was that he didn’t seem to know he was crazy. 40 GUNS is just Fuller’s honest idea of the best way to do a western. And that’s pretty damn weird!
The craziness of 40 GUNS:
- The Song: 1950s westerns always had a ridiculous theme song. “Chuck-a-luck” from RANCHO NOTORIOUS is pretty comical but it’s no match for “Lady with a Whip,” the love theme from 40 GUNS.
- Skewed sexuality: In Fuller movies interaction between the sexes tends to be confusing and smutty. (e.g. UNDERWORLD USA and PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET) In Fuller movies the sexes interact on a pheromone level, forming life-long sexual bonds on sight. (or on smell, I guess) FORTY GUNS is a censor-baiting cavalcade of raunchy single-entendre “humor” that flirts with art because the most leering lines are delivered dead-pan, as if the characters have no idea what they’re saying. “She’s quite a girl. I’d like to stay around long enough to clean her rifle.” You’re probably thinking, “girls don’t have rifles!” Well, they do in this movie, as well as whips. It’s so far gone that Fuller manages to make the vagina a phallic symbol. The cute girl in FORTY GUNS is a gunsmith. Her rifle is a running symbol focusing on the ridged interior of the barrel cleaned with repeated thrusts of a brush. (The rifled barrel POV shot that opens every James Bond movie seems to have been originated in FORTY GUNS.) Every time our leading man goes to the gun shop it’s an outlandish pantomime of gun barrel stroking and jerking.
- Male Bonding: This is a manly movie for manly men, particularly manly men who want to scrub each other’s backs. No movie cowboys ever took as many baths as these guys! After every fight, shooting or romantic encounter it’s back to an open-air frontier bath house for sing alongs and towel snappin’
- Barbara Stanwyck: Stanwyck is one of my favorite actresses but even in the 1930s she was never very attractive. In 40 GUNS she's easily the ugliest romantic leading lady in any Hollywood sound movie. I’m not talking about “plain” here. I’m talking about something so startling it would be weird not to mention it. She looks exactly like Medusa in CLASH OF THE TITANS. But whether intended or not, it works. When men in 40 GUNS are drawn to her it’s so implausible is unsettling, like she’s a sorceress. [...]
- The 40 guns: Wherever Stanwyck goes she is followed by forty gunmen on horseback. It feels very Hong Kong film. (Very much like Lucy Lui and the Crazy 88s in KILL BILL.) If Stanwyck wants a pack of gum in town this whole battalion rides into town behind her, then follows her back home. The 40 guns eat dinner at a very, very long table with her at the head. When our hero shows up at dinner-time to further his romance with her she tells the 40 guns she’d like a little privacy so they all get up and march into a little side-room that can barely hold them, like they were toy soldiers being put in their case.
- Generic Cast: Can you tell Barry Sullivan and Gene Barry apart? Yeah, me neither. I've seen this movie many times and I still can't tell which brother is dating who or who's been shot.
- Miscellaneous oddness: At one point a man is shot in the leg. The doctor runs over to examine the leg. “How is he, doc?” Doctor says, “He’ll live, but he’s blind.”
Congrats to Michael Bell-Smith for the NY Times mention of his cubist remix of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" videos (that's how I'd describe it, anyway). By syncing and playing all five vids simultaneously, Bell-Smith spares us the agony of having to watch them end to end. I'm still marveling at a link Bell-Smith posted earlier to this "scary splash page for a paint-thinner company."
Sarah Hromack has a good summation of the havoc copyright extremists are wreaking on human expression, starting with a rundown of their recent successful campaign (so far) against Google Print:
Taking their cues from the music industry’s reaction to p2p file sharing, publishers fear that making texts available online will lead to unauthorized reproduction and distribution. I know that I, personally, am burning to print all 1,424 pages of War and Peace on my home printer, before collating, binding, and covering the whole mess in split cowhide. I’m seeing a multiple-volume desktop set here. Gold embossing, the works. Ebay, Haight Street—there is no limit to the pure profit potential of this scheme.Ed Rackley offers an especially clear analysis of what's happening in Darfur and its rich neighbor to the north, Khartoum, after he has spent the better part of this year in the Sudan working as a consultant in the international relief effort.
Musical prodigy Adrien75 has posted some new mp3s. One I especially like is the Neu!-ish "4th Song." [link to mp3 page updated: "4th Song" no longer available]
Art in America-recommended blogger James Wagner recently discovered that the Museum of Modern Art subsidiary PS1, a so-called alternate space in Queens, doesn't allow photo-taking of the "Greater New York 2005" exhibit! Man, considering the critical hatred-shading-to-indifference that show received, you'd think they'd want all the publicity they could get. A "no photo" policy benefits MOMA because its art is high-dollar intellectual property that pays dividends in the gift shop--can't have folks thinking this work belongs to everyone with the unfortunate consequence that Jay Bob sells Starry Night T-shirts in Springfield MO based on his digital camera pictures of same.
But an "alternate space" has a different mission, which is to introduce new, difficult, and/or undiscovered talent to the world. Or in this case, new, difficult, and/or undiscovered talent repped by major Chelsea galleries. One way you do this is by encouraging photographers and citizen-journalists to spread the word far and wide with as many visual aids as they can possibly publish.
Anyway, Wagner has a great idea, which is to post artists' sketches on his blog of works in the show. So far he's only gotten one, and it's not loading in my browser at the moment, but I think I'll mosey over to PS1 and do a drawing, as an act of protest of the image blackout and because the editorial thought-process of deciding what to draw appeals. My prediction is most artists won't want to do this, because so many are, let's be frank, geniuses, who have been told they must patiently wait their turn for institutional recognition: "playas" don't sketch other playas' work. * Fine, be a good vassal, I'm gonna go have me some fun.
*Also 'cause it's hard to use that internet thingie.
"Cock of the Walk" [mp3 removed].
"Feather Duster" [removed & replaced by "Cock of the Walk (Siege Mix)"--see below ].
Two tracks using the same 92 bpm hiphop groove (I think it's called Crack Dealer--great) to rather different effect. The titles are from Auntie Entity's quote from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: "But how the world turns. One day, cock of the walk. Next, a feather duster." (The excellent illustration, by Brent Lucy, comes from a Mad Max fan page.) The second tune has a "nice" melody of the calypso/rave variety. The first, grittier one uses mostly drum sounds from Clay Duncan's CD Kit 1 for Native Instruments. In the manual he imparts the rather fascinating tidbit that "These sounds I started making this year for the movie Thunderbirds and on [the TV miniseries] The Grid and Blade Trinity." So he's sharing in the entertainment industry gravy as opposed to a starving in a garret for the greater cause of techno, if anyone ever did that. Good for him and all, I know music is like acting where you list all your commercials and such in your book.
But someone has to ask: All those projects pretty much suck, though, don't they? The Grid--yeah, making us believe our government has a clue after four planes were successfully used as bombs in 2001. Thunderbirds--the movie that accused liberals of coddling Osama Bin Laden [update, whoops--that was Team America.] Blade Trinity, that's like the second sequel of a vampire superhero movie. I like the idea that music could spin off from these high-tech, high-dollar corporate makework projects, though, cargo-cult fashion: that little people can share the samples and make their own cute music that actually has the potential to be better than the source because it isn't made for some suit whose ultimate goal is to rip off the masses with overpromoted sensationalistic product. Sorry for the antiglobalist ranting but there has to be a better vision of the world than what these companies are selling. Yeah, I know I got my titles from a sequel to a sequel.
Addendum: I'm thinking now I'll combine these tracks, starting off with skronky bass stabs and bringing the "pretty" melody in at the halfway point--or making the bass stabs a long break. Oh, God, structure, I just want to be an obstinate serialist.
Addendum 2: Done (option 2): "Cock of the Walk (Siege Mix)" [6.3 MB .mp3]
Addendum 3 (November '05): Sorry this post is so mean-sounding; sometimes demons just take over. Also, not saying my music is "better than the source"--I just mean potentially someone's could be.
"Green March" [mp3 removed]. Dear J(ake) M(andell), thanks for the "green algae" drum samples you made for Native Instruments, and for throwing in a few tones that could be used for melodies. The samples are fuller and more ominous-sounding without all the volume-shaping that attaches to them in certain instruments (Battery), which is why I played them "straight" in Kontakt, but either way, brilliant work, you are inspiring people (me) to use the kit just to hear all the things it can do.
"Piano Bar" [mp3 removed]. Tickling the ivories with some slightly grunged-out Rhodes sounds. This one just sort of popped out (the best ones usually do)--most of the melody lines were placeholders for the real tunes and sounded good enough not to change.