america the beautiful
Lost on the Fearless Plain
"I've spent most of this week watching American television and movies. I leave the TV on all night long. I toss and turn with my bad back, and bad lungs, catch a rerun episode of Two and a Half Men, or CSI, and conk out again. Then I awaken to the U.S. morning talk shows. It's a grueling regimen, only for the strong. Or the lonely. For periodic relief, I switch to Mexican television (be patient, I really am going somewhere with this). Mexican TV is not one iota better than US television, but is veeerrry heavy on the booty. More than heavy. Astronomical. Think all-but-bare tits and ass close-ups every fifteen seconds, straight through commercials, dramas, comedy shows, history shows, and even the news where possible. Every show but the bullfights and that old nun who comes on at ten PM, who invariably drives me back to the U.S. channels.
"Ahhhh … Safely in the American national illusion, where all the world's a shopping expedition. Or a terrorist threat. No matter, as long as it is colorful and wiggles on the theater state's 400 million screens. Plug in and be lit up by the American Hologram.
"This great loom of media images, and images of images, is so many layers deep that it has replaced reality. No one can remember the original imprint. If there was one. The hologram is a hermetic snow globe, a self-referential circuitry of images, and a Möbius loop from which there is no logical escape. Logic has zilch to do with what is going on. The smallest part holographically recapitulates the whole, and vice versa. No thinking required, we just cycle and recycle through an aural dimension. Not all that bad, I guess, if it were not generated by forces out to fuck every last pair of eyeballs and mind plugged into it.
"The investing class has put thousands of billions into movies, TV and other media to keep the hologram lit up over the past six decades. Which is to say, keep the public in an entertained stupor, awed, mislead, and most importantly, distracted. But the payoff probably runs in the trillions.
"For the clear-eyed citizen, there is a growing inner horror and despair in all this, with nowhere to turn but the Internet. The Net is a cyber reality, no more real than the hologram, and indeed a part of the hologram, though not quite yet absorbed and co-opted by capitalism. We take what relief we can find.
"However, for the unquestioning rest, the hologram, taken in its entirety, constitutes the American collective consciousness. Awareness. It enshrouds every citizen, defining through its permeation the daily world in which we all operate. Whether we love or hate it, there is no escape. Go live in a shack in the woods. Call that escape. But everything in the outside world continues to run in accordance with the humming energy of the hologram. There is no cutting our umbilical link to the womb of this illusion, this mass hallucination. There is only getting a longer umbilical cord, closing your eyes, and pretending that what the rest of the nation does has no effect on you. We were all born and raised in that womb. We can no more divorce the neurochemistry and consciousness it shaped in us, than we can deny that we had an earthly mother and are of her tissue. Our consciousness is born of the hologram's connective neural and electrical tissue.
"That common womb of American consciousness is dying. Slowly or rapidly, depending on how you assess the global ecocide and peak everything, it is dying. There will be resuscitations along the way, more massive infusions of money, fear and the rawest sort of fantasy fed to a mood and commodity drugged public. Still, its condition is terminal, because the hyperdrive consumer culture it was built to sustain, is itself unsustainable. Its appetite ate the world. In fact, so voracious is its appetite that even if our "consumer economy," (legalized feudal theft) sees a recovery, and resumes the level of growth required just to keep capitalism alive, it will die just that much faster. It is not in capitalism's DNA to care about the death of the earth. Nor is it in the brain chemistry of an American satiated on prime beef and sailing across the landscape at 70 miles per hour in a $40,000, steel exoskeleton from General Motors, to care. Hominid gratification is what it is -- hard wired -- and there is no circumventing it.
"The system has just begun its crash, and already we are seeing an armed infantilized nation wail, hurl blame and do horrific things, the worst of which we do to one another (excluding sending predator drones after Middle Eastern school kids). Surveillance, witch hunts, destruction of civil liberties, and the government inching toward star chamber trials for those who do not display correct traits. Citizens embracing totalitarianism as stability in the face of the ultimate instability -- the death of the planet."
The Imminent Crash Of The Oil Supply
"Look at this graph and be afraid. It does not come from Earth First. It does not come from the Sierra Club. It was not drawn by Socialists or Nazis or Osama Bin Laden or anyone from Goldman-Sachs. If you are a Republican Tea-Partier, rest assured it does not come from a progressive Democrat. And vice versa. It was drawn by the United States Department of Energy, and the United States military's Joint Forces Command concurs with the overall picture.
If the chart isn't scary enough read the comments. It's the people in denial that are really scary.
eastman view no. 2 project
Progress has been slow on my Eastman View No. 2. Reality keeps getting in the way.
I cleaned the Velostigmat as much as I could and it's now on the way to S.K. Grimes for a CLA and a repair of the dented and frozen soft-focus ring.
My friend Don found a picture of my camera in use in his Dad's studio circa 1947. That looks like the 5x7 back. Don has a 4x5 negative of this photo that he will bring, along with the 5x7 back, when we see each other next. I did try some Formby's furniture refinisher on a spot on the back for removing the old finish and it worked wonders. Tried cleaning a bit of the brass with some ammonia and Nevr-Dull and that worked wonders too.
Don had the studio stand refinished some time ago and it just needs a little cleaning and being assembled. The fasteners for the cast iron parts are missing but substitutes shouldn't be hard to find.
I've not posted about Israel/Palestine for a while. It's not that there wasn't anything to post about but just the opposite. Israel is increasingly being seen as an apartheid state and the divestment movements are proliferating. Many of these movements are being led by righteous Jews. Again, I recommend two blogs by righteous Jews to follow: Mondoweiss and Anthony Lowenstein. Israel is self-destructing and that makes for a very dangerous situation.
"My topic is the future of Palestine, and by that I mean the future of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, or what was long ago called Mandatory Palestine. As you all know, that land is now broken into two parts: Israel proper or what is sometime called “Green Line” Israel and the Occupied Territories, which include the West Bank and Gaza. In essence, my talk is about the future relationship between Israel and the Occupied Territories.
"Of course, I am not just talking about the fate of those lands; I am also talking about the future of the people who live there. I am talking about the future of the Jews and the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens, as well as the Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories.
"The story I will tell is straightforward. Contrary to the wishes of the Obama administration and most Americans – to include many American Jews – Israel is not going to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own in Gaza and the West Bank. Regrettably, the two-state solution is now a fantasy. Instead, those territories will be incorporated into a “Greater Israel,” which will be an apartheid state bearing a marked resemblance to white-ruled South Africa. Nevertheless, a Jewish apartheid state is not politically viable over the long term. In the end, it will become a democratic bi-national state, whose politics will be dominated by its Palestinian citizens. In other words, it will cease being a Jewish state, which will mean the end of the Zionist dream.
"Let me explain how I reached these conclusions."
Israel Won't Change Unless the Status Quo Has a Downside
"Uncomfortable at the spectacle of the Obama administration in an open confrontation with the Israeli government, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman -- who represents the interests of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party on Capitol Hill as faithfully as he does those of the health insurance industry -- called for a halt. "Let's cut the family fighting, the family feud," he said. "It's unnecessary; it's destructive of our shared national interest. It's time to lower voices, to get over the family feud between the U.S. and Israel. It just doesn't serve anybody's interests but our enemies."
"The idea that the U.S. and Israel are "family" with identical national interests is a convenient fiction that Lieberman and his fellow Israel partisans have worked relentlessly to promote -- and enforce -- in Washington over the past two decades. If the bonds are indeed familial, however, last week's showdown between Washington and the Netanyahu government may be counted as one of those feuds in which truths are uttered in the heat of the moment that call into question the fundamental terms of the relationship. Such truths are never easily swept under the rug once the dispute is settled. The immediate rupture, that is, precludes a simple return to the status quo ante; instead, a renegotiation of the terms of the relationship somehow ends up on the agenda. "
"In Foreign Policy, Mark Perry describes an extraordinary Pentagon briefing on Israel’s impact on conflicts across the Middle East. Here is an excerpt and following some comments of my own, the author has provided me with additional background on his reporting.
"On January 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief JCS Chairman Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) “too old, too slow…and too late.” "
"I turn on the television just before dinner. Prime-time. An Israeli series: "The Pilots’ Wives" ("Meet the Women behind Our Heroes", said the promo), interrupted occasionally by a commercial depicting a soldier missing his mother’s soup ("disclaimer: the actor is not a soldier"). After the series, a short public service broadcast showing a group of young men, each in turn boasting his military service, until they notice one of them – a violent zoom-in – keeps quiet; the message is clear. Then the news, with at least one public relations item pushed by the military: "teen-age girls eager to become fighters", "a remote-control watch-and-shoot system on the Gaza fence", "a unique glimpse into a top-secret air-force base" or the like. Not to mention the real news, be it about the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iran, or even the billions of terrorists disguised as miserable African refugees allegedly waiting on the Egyptian border to inundate Israel: all these issues, and many more, are predominantly managed and framed by the military."
In its 62nd year, Israel is in a diplomatic, security and moral limbo
"The joy attendant on Israel's Independence Day traditionally focused on emphasizing the growing list of the young state's achievements and the sense that the country was progressing toward a better future - one of peace, enhanced physical and existential security, integration into the family of nations and the region, and a normalized existence. But the country's lifespan, which was considered a great virtue in and of itself during the first few decades, has become secondary to a far more important question: Within what dynamic is Israel operating? Is time on Israel's side? Is it setting goals for itself and working toward their realization? Has it blossomed into maturity? Are its citizens more secure and happier? Does it greet the future with hope?
"Unfortunately, Israel's 62nd Independence Day finds it in a kind of diplomatic, security and moral limbo that is certainly no cause for celebration. It is isolated globally and embroiled in a conflict with the superpower whose friendship and support are vital to its very existence. It is devoid of any diplomatic plan aside from holding onto the territories and afraid of any movement. It wallows in a sense of existential threat that has only grown with time. It seizes on every instance of anti-Semitism, whether real or imagined, as a pretext for continued apathy and passivity. In many respects, it seems that Israel has lost the dynamism and hope of its early decades, and is once again mired in the ghetto mentality against which its founders rebelled."
"There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ ‘original sin’ was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.
"The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality."
"Even more important is the image created by all these talks about peace. for many people – and this is something I’ve noticed especially in the US – it seems as though there are two equal parties, almost two states, who are entering a diplomatic process to sort their on-going differences. But there is only one state here. Israel is negotiating – when there are negotiations – with the people who are under its own control, and for which it is refusing to grant civil rights.
"In other words, talking about peace hides the real nature of the problem, which is the occupation. When we set peace as our goal, it means that the absence of peace – meaning the violence – was the problem. This is true for the Israeli side, but it’s only partly true for the Palestinians. Their main concern is the lack of civil and human rights. For them, the violence that they suffer is only the result of the initial problem, which is the occupation. By talking about peace and peace only, we are accepting the Israeli definition of the problem as well as its solution.
"When we discuss peace, only the two state solution is acceptable, since that’s how you make peace – between states. On the other hand, if it’s a human or civil rights problem, we can also think of other solutions, such as a confederation, or “one person, one vote”. These ideas are totally unacceptable for Israel, so again, by returning to the idea of “the peace process” the world actually chooses the Israeli narrative over that of the Palestinians. I even think that by this endless talk of the would-be-Palestinian state, we almost tend to believe that such state exists, or that at least the Palestinians are running their own lives, when in fact, the army’s control over the West bank has never been tighter, and the measures against the Palestinians have never been harder. Not many people notice that, because in order to understand what’s going on now, when there is no apparent violence, we must ask questions about rights, not peace."
"Thank you for that most interesting explanation of why Hizballah may indeed, as Nicolas Noe suggested in Asia Times last month 'believe that the next war can and should be the last one between Israel and its enemies.'
"What you write, however, has the effect of further inflaming a suspicion which has been growing steadily stronger in me over the past weeks -- that the situation in the Middle East is rather like a smouldering volcano. It may not erupt, but could well do so, and if it did, the eruption might come suddenly and unexpectedly, generating a conflict which could escalate out of control, possibly with totally catastrophic results.
"And the likelihood of catastrophe is, I think, greatly increased by the fact that many people are living in a fool's paradise, and do not grasp quite how dangerous the situation
"A key part of the background here I take to be the change in Israeli attitudes described in the seminal 2008 Middle East Policy article 'Abandoning the Iron Wall: Israel and the "Middle Eastern Muck"' by Ian Lustick.
"The fundamental change whose implications Lustick explores in this paper is the effective abandonment over the last few years of the 'Iron Wall' conception, which Jabotinsky set out in 1925, and which was the basis of Israeli policy until recently. In essence, this conception involved bludgeoning the Arabs into accepting that Israel could not be destroyed, as a prelude to negotiated accommodations.
"What has now replaced this, Lustick argues, is an image of Israel as an isolated outpost of Western civilisation, in an Arab/Muslim world with which no accommodation is possible. And this change opens up all kinds of possibilities for catastrophe."
the quiet between storms
Last month was my best month for gordy straps and that was without the 135 strap order from my Hong Kong reseller, Victor, 2 weeks ago. For the last two weeks my faithful helper Kim and I have been strapping like crazy. I shipped the last of the Hong Kong straps yesterday. Victor will be promoting the
Mooks are a combination book and magazine popular in Japan. This one is about the popular Micro Four Thirds cameras and their accessories. (My Panasonic G1 is a Micro Four thirds camera).
This is the page that mentions gordy straps. My friend Ken Smith, or more likely his wife Yuko, translated the caption: "03. "It's a simple leather strap that was cut slim nicely, but it has been tested to hold the weight of the camera. It can also bear the weight of larger cameras. The strap is much tougher than it looks."
It appears gordy straps is well on its way to world domination!