Archive for November, 2012

Flora on Sand

November 19, 2012

A rose in the sand. Drawn by a pendulum during an earthquake in Olympia, Washington.

 Futility Closet relates the story behind this beautiful occurrence.

When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia in 2001, shop owner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above. Seismologists say that the “flower” at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later. “You never think about an earthquake as being artistic—it’s violent and destructive. But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created.”

This marvelous natural expression is reminiscent of an aesthetic experiment discussed by Paul Klee. In a lecture at Bauhaus, Klee suggested that if you take a thin sheet of metal, cover it with sand, and stroke the edge with a violin bow, the oscillating vibrations will express themselves in a corresponding rhythmic pattern in the sand. For Klee it was an analogy of the artist and her medium; the artistic spirit rendered into the material world. “That is to say, impetus to vibrate (or will or urge to live), then transposition into material happening and finally visible expression thereof in a new ordering of matter. We (the artists) are the bow, we are the will to expression, matter is the intermediary, the figures in the sand are the ultimate formal product.”

With this & the earthquake-rose in mind, what a beautiful coincidence that Klee should have a painting called “Flora on Sand”.

Paul Klee “Flora on Sand” (1927)



Secret Door

November 18, 2012


On The Offensive

November 15, 2012

In tandem with Israel’s assault on Gaza, the IDF delivered a ‘social media’ blitz, which included niceties such as the swaggering death notice tweet: “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

The most repugnant dispatch was a vid-tweet of the actual assassination footage. “In case you missed it–”

“In case you missed it—” is demonically glib. In case you missed it is what you say when sharing a clip from SNL, not assassination footage. And: Of course we “missed it”—it was filmed from your fighter jet. Unless by “you” the IDF means “Palestinian pedestrians”, as in: “In case you were shopping the next block over and missed the targeted killing + lethal shrapnel”. But then why would the IDF be tweeting in English? Oh yeah, because this is part of a media campaign directed at Western audiences. Or maybe it’s a hat-tip to US citizens, “In case you missed it, we’re putting your military a$$i$tance to good use.” And, since we’re doing a close reading of tweets: In case you missed it is a dark preface to a video of a missile strike that didn’t miss its target (“In case you missed it, we didn’t miss”).

And what of the coincidence that this attack comes in the midst of Netanyahu’s re-election campaign and some supporters have already dubbed the attack his “Seal Team 6 moment”? Even if the man rubbed out—“our Bin Laden”—was Netanyahu’s “sub-contractor in Gaza”?

First Person Shooter

November 14, 2012

In keeping pace with American imperial ambition, the video game industry has invaded foreign lands. Several years ago when Modern Warfare 2 was released a friend who follows the grisly aspects of the US war in Afghanistan told me that the game’s climactic scene was copied almost exactly from a leaked AC 130 gun-camera video (“shot-for-shot” was his dark pun). The leaked video showed the American gunship strafing dozens of Afghans on a hilltop outpost—and now in the video game version lil’ ol’ you got to pull the trigger. Like many of these games, the villains here are technically “Russians” (to be politically sensitive? lol), but players understand who is really being shot in Afghanistan. Americans seem quite eager to participate in armchair-imperial-bloodlust-snuff-film-cum-entertainment, but let’s not mix-up our adventures in Afghanistan & forget who we sub-contracted to actually fight the Soviets… oh yeah, Al-Qaeda!

So last week came the kerfuffle that at least seven members of Seal Team 6 have been disciplined by the Navy for assisting game designers of Medal of Honor: Warfighter simulate the raid that killed Al-Qaeda guru/posterboy/financier/inhouse-hack-poet Osama bin Laden. How dare they help in producing America’s premier propaganda!? They are supposed to leave that to the Navy itself! (The other irony, of course, is that modern warfare, like Modern Warfare, is already a video game: we have all read stories about military employees controlling death-delivering drones from computer consoles in Nevada. Then leaving work to pick up kids from soccer practice. BTW: Does the Pentagon provide treatment for virtual-based PTSD?)

All this came to mind this week when reading about the new EP from Kuwaiti-born musician, Fatima al-Qadiri. As she told Pitchfork’s Ruth Saxelby the EP, “Desert Strike”, is named after a video game of the same name from her childhood.

It’s named after a Sega Megadrive game from 1992, based on Operation Desert Storm from the first Gulf War in 1991…. The record is dedicated to this sci-fi period of my childhood—surviving the invasion of Kuwait, the war, and then playing a video game based on those events a year later.

Holy Shit & Dark & Unreal. The vantage of the game is American (obviously), so young Fatima would be playing as the U.S. invading her neighborhood—commanding digital helicopters as they bomb the region, steering toys of the tanks that rumbled the real highways outside her childhood windows. The surreal mixtures of experiences: first-hand and virtual. The evil twin of the bullshit we’re always carrying on about!

Screen capture from Sega’s 1992 game “Desert Strike: Return to The Gulf”. In development, the game was based on the Lebanese Civil War and titled Beirut Breakout, but the setting was changed to coincide with Desert Storm.

The original iteration of the game penalized players “if they destroyed objects that resulted in negative economic and political results”, but this feature was not popular during internal review and was scrapped. Oi.



For all of you fretting that the gaming industry is woefully retrospective, fear not: the recent game Battlefield III is set in Iran. Cool foreshadowing for WWIII? Fingers crossed!

Not enough line-blurring for you? The new Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 features a cameo from man-o-th’-hour Gen. Petraeus. (Picture)

p.s. It is convenient that the leaked gunship videos (etc.) that inspire these game sequences are in a familiar format: first-person shooter. And isn’t assuming that POV the point of this entertainment/propaganda? [Related: Of the many sites that host leaked combat videos pls note that brands itself “Shock & Awe Entertainment“]

Mien Girls

November 9, 2012

There’s more to add to this when there’s more time to type, but I just wanted to share a painting that’s been cracking me up this week.

“Judith Victorious” (1530) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

1530?? Is it me, or does Judith look like a sassy lass from a trashy teen movie? Like, “yeah, I cut off that fugly dude’s head. NBD.”

Like some Renaissance Amanda Seyfried. (<–it took 11 google minutes to find her name—apparently “that wide-eyed evil-looking teen actress” isn’t how she’s known in the industry.)

Judith Beheading Holofernes

Rags and Feathers

November 9, 2012

The two of us lazing in the park

with silence sweeping the green,

as a summer day fizzles out

in the static, darkening leaves.

I love how the last line pivots on the two meanings of static: the hissing of summer lawns, and stilling of autumn trees.

Speaking of albums that Tanky spun for us in Canadian nights, here is a diamond in the mine: Nina Simone’s gorgeous version of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”. An incredible arrangement. Her reworking of the phrasing honors the original and yet makes it new (a higher honor to the original).

Nina Simone “Suzanne” (1969). (Cohen’s original was released in 1967.)

(Also glinting in the same mine: Aretha Franklin “Suzanne” (1973). An outtake from the sessions for Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky).)


The above poem: “The Nightingale” by Ben Wilkinson

Are we ever meant to read “the nightingale” as the-night-in-gale? The sweet soft spontaneous song of night—but within it the stormy dark? Love & despair in one tangle. Or despair lurking where love lives. Wilkinson’s poem touches this turn; as the summer “fizzles out” he wistfully recalls: “Once, love came easily enough”—and the weight of that ‘once’ is the rub (does it mean ‘once’ as in before or ‘once’ as in one time only?). The poet’s prayer is that it means ‘before, and also again’. And asks his beloved to fend off the clouds & shadows and hear again the clarity. RIGHT! Push back against the gale—TGIF yallz.


November 6, 2012

After Republicans lose the presidential election several things will happen on the stupid TV. First there will be a scramble for excuses. Much of this will be borne of anguished disappointment, but for many key players & talking heads there will be a compelling self-interest in naming a scapegoat. (Can you imagine a sweaty Karl Rove explaining to his SuperPAC donors that their $300,000,000 just went up in smoke?—better start scapegoating pronto!) But as attention turns toward governing, there will be an argument from the right that the election did not confer “a broad mandate”.

Because, y’know, Obama’s coalition will be comprised of a strong majority of only Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, single women, educated urban whites, etc. But he only captured perhaps 30% of the general white vote—y’know, the votes that really count.




White Supremacy Update: Here is one of several round-ups of Rage Blanche that you might read. Instead of couching bigotry in terms of “there is no mandate”, Das KKKrazy Arseholes are bounding 9 steps ahead and saying “there is no America”. “The white establishment is now the minority,” O’Reilly says, “It’s not a traditional America anymore.” Or, more succinctly, Victoria Jackson’s appraisal of the election:

My Heart Fools You

November 6, 2012

I Feel Like I Win When I Lose

November 6, 2012


Slicin’ Up Eyeballs

November 4, 2012

Was feeling Rocky on PBS tonight.



Speaking of slicing up eyeballs, when D.Bowie owned a spooky goatee he used to cover “Debaser” in concert. (Also on the Pixies front: this is absolutely ruthless.)