A group of about 40 elders, ranging in age from 78 to 99 and calling themselves The Zimmers, have recorded The Who’s tune, My Generation, at the historic Abbey Road studio in London. The video is one of the latest hits on YouTube. Lead singer, 90-year-old Alf Caretta, told the BBC:
“I can't believe this is happening. For me to have recorded a song in the same studio as the Beatles is just so exciting. I feel like the whole experience has brought me back to life. I was stuck in a rut and now I feel alive again.”
I've been writing for nearly 40 years. I've been a news reporter, a magazine writer and editor, and written a thousand puff pieces for celebrities of every imaginable sort. And now, at this late age, I found myself back in my home town writing about the poor and working poor folks I grew up with. Most of what I write is about class issues in America -- mainly because being born in lower class poverty leaves a person with a sense of insecurity and class awareness that remains for a life time, regardless of one's later success.
Along the way I think I've learned a little about the subject. Enough that I finally got up enough confidence to write a book about America's cruelest and most strictly enforced national lie -- that we are a classless society. That nearly everyone is middle class or can be if they try.
It is time to close America's universities, and perhaps prosecute the professoriat under the RICO act as a corrupt and racketeering-influenced organization. American universities these days have the moral character of electronic churches, and as little educational value. They are an embarrassment to civilization. -- Fred Reed, American expatriate writer and "equal-opportunity irritant"
If there is one bright spot in the bleak absurdity of slogging along in our new totalist American state, it is that ordinary working Americans are undisciplined as hell. We are genuine moral and intellectual slobs whose consciousness is pretty much glued onto an armature of noise, sports, sex, sugar and saturated fats. Oh, we nod toward the government bullhorns of ideology, even throw beer cans and cheer when told we are winning some war or Olympic sports event. But when it comes right down to it, we could generally give a rat's ass about government institutions and are congenitally more skeptical of government than most nations, especially nations that get things like good teeth and free higher education for their tax dollars.
Surely, there are governmental facts of life no working American can escape, like the IRS, but no ordinary person is dumb enough to actually trust political parties, banks, the courts or the news media. Born with the organizational instincts and global awareness of a box turtle, we take the most torpid political path -- we call it all bullshit, pay lip service, vote occasionally, then forget about our government altogether until April 15th of the next year.
As inhabitants (you couldn't really call what we practice citizenship) of a nation that is essentially one big workhouse/shopping compound, American life is simultaneously both easy for us and rather dangerous to the rest of the world. For instance, when the corporate state's CBS-ABC-CBS-FOX-NBC-XYZ television bullhorns told us some warthog named Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center and probably fixed the NFL ratings too, Tony the electrician said, "Well, OK then. Sure, go ahead and bomb the fucker." Then he flicked to the Home and Garden Channel, where the guy in the plaid shirt is explaining how to get a skylight installed without leaking. Thanks to American industrial molecular science, there's yet another new sticky stuff miracle from Dupont, a tube of which costs about as much as the entire friggin roof. After the obligatory Dupont public relations sponsored tour of the plant where the goo is cooked up, plaid shirt guy gives "application instructions," meaning he tells you how to squirt it out of the tube. And somewhere along the line, between the plant tour and watching the goo dry, Tony gave "informed consent" to the war in Iraq without even knowing it, or for that matter, giving a shit.
Pearls Before Breakfast Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.
HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.
ach passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
To spoil the conclusion of the above article, not many stopped. I got this link from The Online Photographer. One might think a music link to be off topic for a photography blog but Mike Johnston explains:
Finally, although a few people may have thought that the article was "off-topic," I'm not sure it was—I think it does indeed bring up ramifications for photography. The type of photography I practice, for instance. How many times in the course of your daily life and travels do you see something interesting that you think might make a good picture? And how many of those times do you actually take the time to stop and take a few? I think most people—even many visually literate people, including skilled amateur photographers—pass by picture opportunities all the time, simply because they're doing something else—working, or making their way through a list of errands, or on their way to an appointment, or attending to their kids or spouses. Most of the time, we, just like the people who passed Joshua Bell by in the subway, can't afford to stop and indulge our hobbies at any old time—we have to schedule that activity, in between our other obligations. Indeed, I think it takes a person with a certain kind of lifestyle to be able to drop everything, grab the camera, and spend ten, twenty, or thirty minutes responding to something unforeseen that they just happened across in the course of their daily life. Very busy, heavily scheduled people just can't do that, most of the time.
Consequently, I wonder how many of the people who walked past Bell with their heads down would have liked to stop and listen, but were thinking something like, "Can't stop, gotta stay focused, gotta resist temptation, gotta keep going...." I'll bet there were a few. And it's sometimes the same way with taking pictures, isn't it?
The Washington Post published an article about an experiment they did: they got Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, to play incognito in a subway station. They wanted to see if without the PR he usually gets for his stage performances anybody would stop to listen. The result was - hardly anybody stoped to listen. The Washington Post analized it as if it were the fault of the audience, the passers by, for not recognizing such a great musician. I say - it wasn’t the fault of the passers by at all.
Because it's really all about shutting the reality of the Middle East off from us. It's to prevent the British and American people from questioning the immoral and cruel and internationally illegal occupation of Muslim lands. And in the Land of the Free, this systematic censorship of Middle East reality continues even in the country's schools. Now the principal of a Connecticut high school has banned a play by pupils, based on the letters and words of US soldiers serving in Iraq. Entitled Voices in Conflict, Natalie Kropf, Seth Koproski, James Presson and their fellow pupils at Wilton High School compiled the reflections of soldiers and others - including a 19-year-old Wilton High graduate killed in Iraq - to create their own play. To no avail. The drama might hurt those "who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak", proclaimed Timothy Canty, Wilton High's principal. And - my favourite line - Canty believed there was not enough rehearsal time to ensure the play would provide "a legitimate instructional experience for our students".
And of course, I can quite see Mr Canty's point. Students who have produced Arthur Miller's The Crucible were told by Mr Canty - whose own war experiences, if any, have gone unrecorded - that it wasn't their place to tell audiences what soldiers were thinking. The pupils of Wilton High are now being inundated with offers to perform at other venues. Personally, I think Mr Canty may have a point. He would do much better to encourage his students to perform Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, a drama of massive violence, torture, rape, mutilation and honour killing. It would make Iraq perfectly explicable to the good people of Connecticut. A "legitimate instructional experience" if ever there was one.
After September 11, 2001, but based on the sort of pre-2001 thinking you could find well represented at the neocon website Project for the New American Century, the Bush administration's top officials wrote their own drama for the arc of instability. They were, of course, the main characters in it, along with the U.S. military, some Afghan and Iraqi exiles who would play their necessary roles in the "liberation" of their countries, and a few evil ogres like Saddam Hussein.
Today, not six years after they raised the curtain on what was to be their grand imperial drama, they find themselves in a dark theater with at least six crises in search of an author, all clamoring for attention – and every possibility that a seventh (not to say a seventeenth) "character" in that rowdy, still gathering, audience may soon rise to insist on a part in the horrific farce that has actually taken place.
I remember the day last September. The supermarket had a new kind of salad dressing, one that looked like it would taste good with spinach. I went to the produce section to buy a bag. But they all had been recalled. Three people had died from E. coli contamination from eating spinach. I decided I could live without the spinach.
Next they came for the peanut butter, and I didn't pay much attention. I don't much like peanut butter.
Then they came for the tomatoes. Then the Taco Bell lettuce.
Then the mushrooms, then ham steaks, then summer sausage. I started worrying.
Then, they came for the pet food.
I remember the sinking feeling, hearing that dogs and cats had died eating contaminated food. Then the flash of guilt—had we poisoned our dogs? I remember hearing the name of the manufacturer, my wife searching the web frantically for a catalogue of its products, the stab of fear when we found the name of the food our own dogs eat. Then the wave of relief—it was only canned food; our dogs eat dry. I began investigating more. One of the things I learned was that the Food and Drug Administration hasn't been able to confirm "with 100 percent certainty" that the offending agent didn't go into human food. Then it neglected to reveal the name of the tainted product's U.S. distributor.
It is time to get to the root of the problem. I blame the conservatism.
Some of the latest headlines about the pet food scandal: "Nothing But Luck Kept Suspect Wheat Gluten Out Of Food Supply." "New Finds Expand the Threat Beyond Wheat Gluten." Some recent developments: new brands getting recalled all the time (it's up over 5,000 now); corporate flacks spinning at fast enough velocity to escape earth orbit; Senate hearings reminding us of that the central scandal of America's food-safety system under conservative government, that the FDA has now power to order recalls (something I'll be writing much more about in the future).
The part of the story I want to linger on for now, however, concerns our modern-day robber barons' good friends across the sea: the People's Republic of China.
Had Enough? Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course." Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out! You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies.Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.
I found these at Joerg's who, since the sites are in German, has this explanation:
Lars Bober's series Verödete Landschaften [deserted landscapes] shows Germany's Mezzogiorno, the East German states, which to a large extent are frozen in disrepair, with large parts literally deserted by its former inhabitants who went West to look for work.
The delegation arrived at the market [in Baghdad], which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees … and attack helicopters…. Sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests…. At a news conference shortly after their outing, Mr. McCain … and his three congressional colleagues described Shorja as a safe, bustling place full of hopeful and warmly welcoming Iraqis — "like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime," offered Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican. — New York Times
MY WIFE came into the living room wearing a Kevlar vest, helmet and night-vision goggles.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Have you completely forgotten, silly head? We're going to the market."
I placed my hand at my head. I'd been so caught up in stitching a minor wound I'd received earlier in the day after going to an outdoor fruit stand that I had completely forgotten.
"I'm a dope, aren't I?" I said, chuckling, slowly shaking my head back and forth. She chuckled too, also shaking her head. We both chuckled. Then I winced from where a stitch popped.
Carol helped the boys get ready, putting on their sneakers and body armor. I phoned the Indiana National Guard so that they could radio the 434th Special Air Wing at Grissom Air Force Base, which in turn scrambled two F-14 Tomcats. Then we hopped in the wagon.
Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad - despite President George Bush's "surge" in troops - US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.
Mortar attacks on the Green Zone, the American controlled and massively fortified citadel in the heart of Baghdad, were already on the rise when, late last week, a suicide bomber managed to penetrate the Parliament building inside the Zone and kill at least one legislator, while wounding others, in its cafeteria. Some parliamentary representatives were soon declaring the still unfolding American "surge" plan in the capital a dismal failure.
The day-to-day work of the White House implementation manager overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan would require a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy resolving critical resource issues in a bureaucracy that, to date, has not functioned well. Activities such as the current surge operations should fit into an overall strategic framework. There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries. These interests will require a serious dialogue and partnership with countries that live in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. We cannot "shorthand" this issue with concepts such as the "democratization of the region" or the constant refrain by a small but powerful group that we are going to "win," even as "victory" is not defined or is frequently redefined.
Okay, I know I'm a little late writing about the news that came out last week (here and here) that (1) the Bush administration had decided to hire a new "Iraq war czar" (also briefly, and quite infelicitously, titled an "execution manager") who would sit in the White House and provide a direct operational link between the Prez and David Petraeus, the US commanding general in Iraq; and (2) no fewer than five retired generals have now turned down an invitation to take up this post.
But I actually think this new plan is a more serious sign of disarray in the highest levels of the US chain of command than most people have so far realized.
The WaPo's Walter Pincus has a very disturbing piece in today's paper in which he writes that the US forces in Iraq are currently holding about 18,000 detainees, the vast majority of them Iraqis. Pincus also mentions almost as an afterthought that "As of last month, the Iraqi detention [by which I assume he means the separate archipelago of prison-camps that is run by the Iraqi 'government'] contained about 34,000 detainees."
Three years into the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the dire predictions of the prewar opposition have proved remarkably prescient, notes activist, writer and editor Arnove (Voices of a People's History of the United States) in this impassioned, categorical argument for immediate withdrawal. But today's broad sentiment against the war—including the opinions of Americans who explicitly align themselves with an antiwar movement—remains deeply divided on the question of pulling U.S. forces out right away. Arnove, whose book title pays homage to historian and colleague Howard Zinn's classic foray into the Vietnam War debate, accordingly offers a point-by-point challenge to the assumptions underlying arguments accepted by war skeptics for supporting (however reluctantly) an increasingly bloody occupation. His clearly written, well-sourced anti-imperialist critique identifies fear, racism, religiosity, hunger for oil and a "civilizing" pretense behind the Bush administration's rhetoric on the Iraq war and places the conflict in a historical, economic, political and ideological context. Arnove's persuasive reasoning and summaries of relevant events (with two eloquent bracketing essays by Zinn) will prove an invaluable resource to antiwar voices, if unlikely to change adamantly prowar minds.
The U.S. Military has no right ro be in Iraq in the first place.
The Bush administration built its case for invading Iraq on a series of deceptions. The war in Iraq was sold on the idea that the United States was preempting a terrorist attack by Iraq. But Iraq posed no threat. The country was disarmed and had overwhelmingly complied with the extremely invasive weapons inspections. In a rare moment of honesty, Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN in March 2001,"I don't believe [Saddam Hussein] is a significant military threat today."
As the case for war has crumbled, so has the case for occupation, which also rests on the idea that the United States can violate the sovereignty of the Iraqi people and all the laws of occupation, such as the Hague and Geneva Conventions, which clearly restrict the right of occupying powers to interfere in the internal affairs of an occupied people.
CAN A pantheress turn into a pussycat? Impossible, a zoologist would say. But last week, we saw it happen with our own eyes.
Condoleezza Rice came here to teach Ehud Olmert, once and for all, who is boss. The President of the United States wants to make order in the Middle East, and the government of Israel has to fall into line. Otherwise.
Two days later, nothing of the threat remained. Olmert refused again. And what happened? Nothing happened. The fearful pantheress slunk home, her tail between her legs.
On Monday, March 26, 2007 in Northern Gaza a river of raw sewage and debris overflowed from a collapsed earth embankment into a refugee camp driving 3,000 Palestinians from their homes. Five residents drowned, 25 were injured and scores of houses were destroyed.
The New York Times, Washington Post and the television media blamed shoddy infrastructure. The Daily Alert (the house organ of the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations) blamed the Palestinians who they claimed were removing sand to sell to construction contractors thus undermining the earth embankment. The disaster at Umm Naser (the village in question) is emblematic of everything that is wrong with US-Israeli politics in the Middle East. The disaster in this isolated village has its roots first and foremost in Washington where AIPAC and its political allies have successfully secured US backing for Israel's financial and economic boycott of the Palestinian government subsequent to the democratic electoral victory of Hamas.
AIPAC's victory in Washington reverberated throughout Europe and beyond ñ as the European Union also applied sanctions shutting off financing of all new infrastructure projects and the maintenance of existing facilities. At the AIPAC conventions of 2005 through 2007, the leaders of both major American parties, congressional leaders and the White House pledged to re-enforce AIPAC's boycott and sanctions strategy. AIPAC celebrated its victory for Israeli policy and claimed authorship of the legislation. In addition to malnutrition, the policy undermined all public maintenance projects.
It is here that I want to share a story from my family, to describe a moment that has inspired all of my work and writing.
My mother and her sister had just been liberated from concentration camp by the Russian army. After having captured all the Nazi officials and guards who ran the camp, the Russian soldiers told the Jewish survivors that they could do whatever they wanted to their German persecutors. Many survivors, themselves emaciated and barely alive, immediately fell on the Germans, ravaging them. My mother and my aunt, standing just yards from the terrible scene unfolding in front of them, fell into each other's arms weeping. My mother, who was the physically stronger of the two, embraced my aunt, holding her close and my aunt, who had difficulty standing, grabbed my mother as if she would never let go. She said to my mother, "We cannot do this. Our father and mother would say this is wrong. Even now, even after everything we have endured, we must seek justice, not revenge. There is no other way." My mother, still crying, kissed her sister and the two of them, still one, turned and walked away.
What then is the source of our redemption, our salvation? It lies ultimately in our willingness to acknowledge the other-the victims we have created-Palestinian, Lebanese and also Jewish-and the injustice we have perpetrated as a grieving people. Perhaps then we can pursue a more just solution in which we seek to be ordinary rather then absolute, where we finally come to understand that our only hope is not to die peacefully in our homes as one Zionist official put it long ago but to live peacefully in those homes.
When my daughter Jess was submerged under the waters of the mikvah for the third and final time, she told me she saw rainbows under the water. I shall take this beautiful image as a sign of her rebirth and plead desperately for ours.
The moment of truth has arrived, and it has to be said: Israel does not want peace. The arsenal of excuses has run out, and the chorus of Israeli rejection already rings hollow. Until recently, it was still possible to accept the Israeli refrain that "there is no partner" for peace and that "the time isn't right" to deal with our enemies. Today, the new reality before our eyes leaves no room for doubt and the tired refrain that "Israel supports peace" has been left shattered.
Hani Hayek, an accountant who is the Christian mayor of the tiny majority-Christian Palestinian village of Beit Sahour, was angry last week as he drove me along the Israeli security wall. "They are taking our communal lands," he said, pointing to the massive Israeli settlement of Har Homa. "They don't want us to live here. They want us to leave."
In September 2003, in the midst of Israel’s campaign of targeted assassinations against Palestinian terrorists, a 31-year-old Black Hawk helicopter pilot named Yonatan Shapira terrorized Israel’s military high command without committing a single act of violence.
If the administration of US President George W Bush is paying attention, the drama over the 15 British sailors and marines, whose release by Iran after 12 days of detention was announced in Tehran on Wednesday, was designed to convey two key messages, according to experts in Washington.
First, the initial capture of the Britons by Revolutionary Guards near the entry to the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway was meant to demonstrate that, despite its conventional military weakness and diplomatic isolation, Iran retains the ability to strike at Western interests when it feels sufficiently provoked.
Second, when Western powers engage Iran with respect and as an equal, they are more likely to get what they want than when they take a confrontational path designed to bully or humiliate the regime.
Even as Iran basks in worldwide praise for its handling of the crisis over the 15 British sailors and marines it seized and then released after two weeks, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has ensured that the focus stays on his country by announcing that Iran has the ability to produce enriched uranium at "industrial scale".
These are three movies that I've seen recently that blew me away.
Porco Rosso by Hayao Miyazaki
It's by Hayao Miyazaki, who is well known for Princess Monoke and Spirited Away. He did Porco Rosso in 1992, prior to Princess Monoke. His animation is sublime. From Amazon:
Porco Rosso (The Crimson Pig, 1992) ranks as Hayao Miyazaki's oddest film: a bittersweet period adventure about a dashing pilot who has somehow been turned into a pig. Miyazaki once said, "Initially, it was supposed to be a 45-minute film for tired businessmen to watch on long airplane flights... Why kids love it is a mystery to me." The early 1930s setting enabled Miyazaki to focus on the old airplanes he loves, and the film boasts complex and extremely effective aerial stunts and dogfights. In the new English dub from Disney, Michael Keaton as Porco delivers lines like "All middle-aged men are pigs" with appropriate cynicism, but his voice may be too familiar for some Miyazaki fans. Susan Egan makes a curiously distant Gina, the thrice-widowed hotel owner bound to Porco by years of friendship; Kimberly Williams is more effective as the irrepressible young engineer Fio. Porco Rosso may be an odd film, but Miyazaki's directorial imagination never flags.
The Producers by Susan Stroman and Mel Brooks
I'm not a big musical fan but I am a big Mel Brooks fan and this is pure Mel Brooks. I didn't realize he wrote music. Not only did he write the music for this but he wrote the music for all his movies. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are hysterical and a supporting cast to match. It reprises the successful stage play which was based on the original Mel Brooks movie. And it contains such memorable tunes as "Springtime for Hitler."
The trend is to convert movies into stage musicals, but The Producers goes a step further: making a feature film of the smash-hit stage musical that was adapted from the 1968 film. The chief drawing card, of course, is Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their roles from the stage. Lane plays Max Bialystock, a legendary Broadway producer who hasn't had a hit show in a long time. Enter nebbish accountant Leo Bloom (Broderick), who tells Bialystock he could actually make more money with a flop than a hit. So the two set out to produce the worst Broadway musical of all time, one guaranteed to close on opening night, with the collaboration of an outrageous cast of characters: Will Ferrell as sieg heil-ing author Franz Liebkind, Uma Thurman as Swedish bombshell Ulla, Gary Beach as director Roger De Bris, and Roger Bart as his assistant, Carmen Ghia, among others.
As directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (who did the same honors on Broadway) and co-written by Mel Brooks, The Producers is laugh-out-loud funny. It's also a relentlessly over-the-top, shamelessly bawdy, stereotype-ridden comedy that may turn off its audience just as much as its centerpiece, Springtime for Hitler, was intended to. But Broadway fans who are used to larger-than-life figures who play to the back row while showering the first row with spit, are likely to forgive and just enjoy the famous granny-walker dance, a supporting cast dotted with Broadway performers (playing a taxi driver is Brad Oscar, who originated the role of Liebkind on Broadway then later played Bialystock), or the mere spectacle of seeing Lane and Broderick memorializing the performances that millions never got a ticket to see. (For maximum laughs, stick around through the closing credits.)
Buena Vista Social Club by Ry Cooder
I saw this when it first came out. It's still great. Amazing music. A classic. From Amazon:
In 1996, composer, producer, and guitar legend Ry Cooder entered Egrem Studios in Havana with the forgotten greats of Cuban music, many of them in their 60s and 70s, some of them long since retired. The resulting album, Buena Vista Social Club, became a Grammy-winning international bestseller. When Cooder returned to Havana in 1998 to record a solo album by 72-year-old vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, filmmaker Wim Wenders was on hand to document the occasion. Wenders splits the film between portraits of the performers, who tell their stories directly to the camera as they wander the streets and neighborhoods of Havana, and a celebration of the music heard in performance scenes in the studio, in their first concert in Amsterdam, and in their second and final concert at Carnegie Hall. The songs are too often cut short in this fashion, but Buena Vista Social Club is not a concert film. Wenders weaves the artist biographies with a glimpse of modern Cuba remembering its past, capturing a lost culture in music that is suddenly, unexpectedly revived for audiences in Havana and around the world. Wenders makes his presence practically invisible, as if his directorial flourishes or off-screen narration might deflect attention from the artists, who do a fine job of telling their own stories through interviews and music. It's a loving portrait of a master class in Cuban music, with a vital cast of aging performers whose energy and passion belie their years.
The American people are in La-la land. If they had any idea of what the Federal Reserve was up to they’d be out on the streets waving fists and pitchforks. Instead, we go our business like nothing is wrong.
Are we really that stupid?
What is it that people don’t understand about the trade deficit? It’s not rocket science. The Current Account Deficit is over $800 billion a year. That means that we are spending more than we are making and savaging the dollar in the process. Presently, we need more than $2 billion of foreign investment per day just to keep the wheels from coming off the cart.
Everyone agrees that the current trade imbalances are unsustainable and will probably trigger major economic disruptions that will thrust us towards a global recession. Still, Washington and the Fed stubbornly resist any change in policy that might reduce over-consumption or reverse present trends.
The investor class loves big deficits because they provide cheap credit for Bush’s lavish tax cuts and war. The recycling of dollars into US Treasuries and dollar-based securities is a neat way of covering government expenses and propping up the stock market with foreign cash. It’s a “win-win” situation for political elites and Wall Street. For the rest of us it’s a dead-loss. [...]
The demolition of the dollar isn’t accidental. It’s part of a plan to shift wealth from one class to another and concentrate political power in the hands of a permanent ruling elite. There’s nothing particularly new about this and Bush and Greenspan have done nothing to conceal what they are doing. The massive expansion of the Federal government, the unfunded tax cuts, the low interest rates and the steep increases in the money supply have all been carried out in full-view of the American people. Nothing has been hidden. Neither the administration nor the Fed seem to care whether or not we know that we’re getting screwed --it’s just our tough luck. What they care about is the $3 trillion in wealth that has been transferred from wage slaves and pensioners to brandy-drooling plutocrats like Greenspan and his n’er-do-well friend, Bush.
The greatest threat facing America today is not terrorism, or foreign economic competition, or illegal immigration. The greatest threat facing America today is the disastrous fiscal policies of our own government, marked by shameless deficit spending and Federal Reserve currency devaluation. It is this one-two punch – Congress spending more than it can tax or borrow, and the Fed printing money to make up the difference – that threatens to impoverish us by further destroying the value of our dollars.
Anyone, anywhere in the world, who makes a pinhole photograph on the last Sunday in April, can scan it and upload it to this website where it will become part of the annual Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day celebration's online gallery.
Here's some random facts to illustrate how inelastic supply of oil is once an oil province hits it’s “Hubbert Peak” and the super giant fields deplete...
In 1972, Texas produced more oil than ever before, up by 40 percent during the previous 10 years at relatively low prices. In the next 10 years, the price of oil increased ten fold (1000%). Drilling exploded far above any historic record. The success rate plummeted, the number of producing wells increased by only 14%, and oil production dropped back to 1962 levels in 1982.
1962-1972 Texas Price stable, up slightly Production +40%
1972-1982 Texas Price +1000% Production –28%
2002-2015 Saudi Arabia ?
The last two super giant oil fields found in the world were both found in Kazakhstan. One in the late 1980s and the other in 2000. The last field, Kashagan (expected to produce 1 million b/day at peak) is now thought likely to go into production in 2012 and full production shortly thereafter. (ANWR has about a 5% probability of being a supergiant per one estimate (USGS ?)).
10% of all the oil ever consumed was consumed in GW Bush’s first term. By some estimates, 10% of all the conventional oil left will be consumed in his second term. This is the power of exponential growth.
EROEI (Energy return on energy invested) is declining for oil production from 100:1 in 1960s (world wide) to 8:1 today. Energy used in oil production is largely oil and natural gas.
Corn ethanol has an EROEI of about 1.3:1, sugar cane ethanol 6 to 8:1 (better with manual harvesting), Canadian tar sands are about 4:1.
It may be that two urges are coming together. One urge is for a larger camera than my 5x7. The next size up is 8x10. There is no rush. I still haven't got my 5x7 act together and 5x7 may meet all my big negative needs. (If you believe that...) The other urge is to design and build a large format view camera. That urge is mollified by the relatively low prices on 8x10 view cameras like the Burke & James. It isn't worth going to the trouble of designing and bulding one when it would cost more to do so. Then I run across this:
A few weeks ago we did a brief post about a mysterious new camera. So how did that whole plate camera come to suddenly make its appearance in the Ebony catalog?
The short answer is that two people placed orders for cameras to be custom-built in this format. Who would do that? Why? And what’s involved in obtaining a special camera like this?
History First, a bit of context. The 6½ x 8½-inch format dates back to the beginning of photography, when Daguerre chose that size for his “daguerreotype” plates. That “whole plate” size, along with fractional variations on it, became well established during the brief but vigorous flowering of the daguerreotype; together with the half plate and quarter plate sizes, it survived through the succeeding glass plate era and into the era of cut sheet film in the twentieth century. Judged by the availability of new cameras, whole plate remained an important format in the United States at least into the 1930s, though after World War II it was rapidly eclipsed by 8x10. The format remained in common use far later in Japan, however, with new yatsugiri cameras and adapter backs being offered at least into the 1970s.
Today, whole plate is of interest primarily to photographers who like to make contact prints, and to compose the picture in the intended final print size at the time of exposure. Among contact printing aficionados, some find the slightly smaller size and more elongated proportions of the 6.5 x 8.5" negative more pleasing than the larger, squarer shape of the more familiar 8x10 format. Compared on the one hand to smaller and on the other to larger sizes, whole plate is also unusual in that the prints typically are practical and pleasing both in the hand and on the wall.
I like the aspect ration of the format. I haven't looked at the price of the Ebony but I know it's way more than I can afford and it's the only option. Once I get all my other photographic projects done (maybe in another lifetime...or two) and if I get into contact printing with the 5x7, designing and building a whole plate camera might be very interesting.
I have some more done on Robyn's Trip to Washington chronicling our granddaughter's visit last month. I had over 700 pictures to organize and process. I now have Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of her visit up on the website. Now for the rest of the visit.
Our 7 year-old grandson Mike spent last night and Zoe and I played with him today. Our last stop was in Coupeville for ice cream. If you are in Coupeville, on Whidbey Island, do stop in at Kapaws. They make their own waffle cones. Fresh. Yumm!