Sunday, June 28, 2009

Like this painting from pop artist Joe Heaps.

Always love the trucks, so many trucks. And it's a Flying J truckstop (see the sign upper left). I've been to at least five or six of their locations in the midwest, and we've discovered that the variety of the buffet helps get the kids to eat something when we're on the road. Bonus detail: AO used a recording of the weird shower announcements for a performance piece in art school.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Transformers as avant-garde art movie

Hilarious review of the latest Transformers movie at sci-fi site io9:

Critical consensus on Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen is overwhelmingly negative. But the critics are wrong. Michael Bay used a squillion dollars and a hundred supercomputers' worth of CG for a brilliant art movie about the illusory nature of plot.

Since the days of Un Chien Andalou and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, filmmakers have reached beyond meaning. But with this summer's biggest, loudest movie, Michael Bay takes us all the way inside Caligari's cabinet.

It's an assault on the senses, a barrage of crazy imagery. Imagine that you went back in time to the late 1960s and found Terry Gilliam, fresh from doing his weird low-fi collage/animations for Monty Python. You proceeded to inject Gilliam with so many steroids his penis shrank to the size of a hair follicle, and you smushed a dozen tabs of LSD under his tongue. And then you gave him the GDP of a few sub-Saharan countries. Gilliam might have made a movie not unlike this one.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eric Bibb (with Brian Kramer)

I saw Bibb live last week. With just a guitar he riveted the audience with great skills, but also a weird kind of self-awareness and communication.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Big Brother crowd-sourcing

From NYT's The Lede:

Update | 5:31 p.m. A reader, Jon, writes to say that “a friend in Iran that I have been in touch with via Skype (which seems to work very well)” told him that a specific Web site,, is being used by the Iranian government to identify protesters by crowd-sourcing. The Lede has been unable to get the site to load to confirm this (and the site may be under attack from supporters of the protest movement), but the information passed on by the reader suggests that Iranians are being asked to study photographs of protesters taken at demonstrations and then turn them in to the authorities.

Later: A reader points out that is back up and is in fact running at least one page of photographs taken at protests, with the faces of 25 protesters circled, and an appeal for information on these people.

Also in passing, many of the blogs have been critical, mostly for good reason, of the mainstream cable outlets. They are reading the same thing as the blogs, but not doing the same due diligence that we expect of journalists. Today, it seems like CNN was played by the Iranian government. CNN made headlines everywhere with an interview with a woman describing a "bloody massacre" at a demo in front of the parliament building. Apparently, later reports suggest that it was bad and tense, and one person may have been killed, but not the bloodbath described in CNN's report. The Iranian government is using headlines like this to keep people off the street. Like the website above, it's intimidation.

US would also suppress demos

I had been thinking about this fact over the weekend. Juan Cole, today:

US politicians are no longer in a position to lecture other countries about their human rights. The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, 'protest zones' were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated 'protest zones' would be illegal in New York City, apparently. In fact, the Republican National Committee has undertaken to pay for the cost of any lawsuits by wronged protesters, which many observers fear will make the police more aggressive, since they will know that their municipal authorities will not have to pay for civil damages.

It is important to remember that the US itself was moved by Bush and McCain toward a 'Homeland Security' national security state that is intolerant of public protest and throws the word 'terrorist' around about dissidents.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Face of Fascism

Best aggregating live blogs I've been reading are Huffington Post, NYT's The Lede, and Andrew Sullivan. If you've looked at any of the grainy videos coming out today of the street skirmishes you may have wondered why there were so many fires in the streets, usually fueled by cardboard. It's to dissipate the tear gas.

I'm just in awe of the people who are confronting armed security forces.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Revolution against Media

Lefty journalist Al Giordano:

Finally, let me also explain why this reporter, who has long focused exclusively on events in this hemisphere, is so interested and captivated by the events in Iran, and writing about them here.

Ever since I penned The Medium Is the Middleman: For a Revolution Against Media, I’ve been waiting for this moment, which I predicted, twelve years ago, would come: a great day when the corporate media got pushed out of the way by authentic media from below. What is occurring worldwide, with the Iranian crisis as catalyst, is the emergence of the very kind of media from below that the human race - particularly the working class and the poor - so desperately needs.

Following these events – including the fast-developing advances in communications strategies and tactics and the efforts from above to censor and cut those communications – provides a gigantic global teach-in and workshop (much like during the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela) on how it is done. As a journalist, I have always followed the stories that help me to learn something new and important to me. And every hour, I’m learning a new set of tricks from these brave communicators in Iran and around the world: methods and techniques that will serve us in this hemisphere, soon enough, too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clay Shirky's take on Twitter and the Uprising

I'm planning on teaching Shirky's book, "Here Comes Everybody," this fall. Here's part of his comment on the use of social networking tools and social action in Iran:

I'm always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that ... this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I've been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted 'the whole world is watching.' Really, that wasn't true then. But this time it's true ... and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They're engaging with individual participants, they're passing on their messages to their friends, and they're even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can't immediately censor. That kind of participation is really extraordinary.

Traditional media operates as source of information not as a means of coordination. It can't do more than make us sympathize. Twitter makes us empathize. It makes us part of it. Even if it's just retweeting, you're aiding the goal that dissidents have always sought: the awareness that the ouside world is paying attention.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009


File this under pop music I like.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Julie Peel

A cover of The Cure's A Night Like This.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

'Allah O Akbar' from the rooftops

I've poked around a bit for news from Iran. Something's going on, but it's hard to know how widespread the protests might be. This compelling bit appears on HuffPost.

6:12 PM ET -- "Deafening." From a reader: "My next door neighbor is an Iranian immigrant who came here in 1977. He just received a SAT phone call from his brother in Tehran who reports that the rooftops of nighttime Tehran are filled with people shouting 'Allah O Akbar' in protest of the government and election results. The last time he remembers this happening is in 1979 during the Revolution. Says the sound of tens of thousands on the rooftops is deafening right now." It's almost four in the morning in Iran.

Morton Valence

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do You Need to Go Pee-Pee?

Reminds me of someone I live with.

Viva Voce

Married duo from Portland. This clip from Seattle's Bumbershoot features an awesome, shredding guitar solo.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dengue Fever

From a new documentary of the band's trip through Cambodia. The soundtrack features banned Cambodian rock songs from the 1960s and 70s.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Caustic Resin

From Boise, ID.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Genesis (1973), really old Genesis.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Originally first wave British punk, still kicking it - literally.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Finally caught up with a piece, "Hellhole," in a recent New Yorker on solitary confinement. We now know a lot about the isolation used at Gitmo, and the disciplinary use of "solitary" in U.S. prisons is common knowledge, but the article highlights how much more the U.S. has come to rely on solitary confinement. Like the outcomes for "enhanced interrogation," those in solitary don't learn their lesson or become more forthcoming. Instead, they literally lose their minds.
Craig Haney, a psychology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, received rare permission to study a hundred randomly selected inmates at California’s Pelican Bay supermax, and noted a number of phenomena. First, after months or years of complete isolation, many prisoners “begin to lose the ability to initiate behavior of any kind—to organize their own lives around activity and purpose,” he writes. “Chronic apathy, lethargy, depression, and despair often result. . . . In extreme cases, prisoners may literally stop behaving,” becoming essentially catatonic.

Second, almost ninety per cent of these prisoners had difficulties with “irrational anger,” compared with just three per cent of the general population. Haney attributed this to the extreme restriction, the totality of control, and the extended absence of any opportunity for happiness or joy. Many prisoners in solitary become consumed with revenge fantasies.

Isolation only exacerbates discipline problems, leading to psychosis rather than changed behavior. As far back as 1890 isolation in the U.S. was deemed cruel and unusual punishment, and only in the last 20 years has its use increased beyond what any other country would even consider. The British, who have a long history of running prisons, including the incarceration of Irish political prisoners, have come up with a completely different solution.
So the British decided to give their most dangerous prisoners more control, rather than less. They reduced isolation and offered them opportunities for work, education, and special programming to increase social ties and skills. The prisoners were housed in small, stable units of fewer than ten people in individual cells, to avoid conditions of social chaos and unpredictability. In these reformed “Close Supervision Centres,” prisoners could receive mental-health treatment and earn rights for more exercise, more phone calls, “contact visits,” and even access to cooking facilities. They were allowed to air grievances. And the government set up an independent body of inspectors to track the results and enable adjustments based on the data.

The results have been impressive. The use of long-term isolation in England is now negligible. In all of England, there are now fewer prisoners in “extreme custody” than there are in the state of Maine. And the other countries of Europe have, with a similar focus on small units and violence prevention, achieved a similar outcome.

Of course, the American attitude is that prisoners need to be "punished," but if the goal is to peacefully house convicts then it seems much more sensible to try a different policy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

K. D. Lang

Covering Neil Young.