Archive for the ‘Ethics/General Human Responsibility’ Category

For the mayor mr rob ford

November 3, 2013



Reel Around the Montaigne

June 27, 2013

Albrecht Dürer was on tour recently and played the National Gallery in DCDürer is an unimpeachable master, whose genius we won’t go into, suffice it to say that the dude knew how to dress! (Those sleeves!) For all his ability, however, Dürer had the strange habit of giving the most misfortunate lil’ scrunch-faces to his ladies. (See, for example, Eve.) One of the misfortunate-faced gals on display at the National Gallery was that of the quasi-mythic Lucretia.

The Suicide of Lucretia (1518). Not among Dürer’s Greatest Hits, not least because of the uneven length of her arms :-(

The Suicide of Lucretia (1518). Not among Dürer’s Greatest Hits, not least because of the uneven length of her arms :–(

Lucretia’s suicide was a popular & enduring motif in medieval & renaissance art, variously employed with sexual and/or political overtones. In the classical narrative, Lucretia was raped in her bedroom by the son of Lucius Tarquinius, the seventh and soon-to-be-final king of the Etruscan dynasty that ruled over Rome. In horror at the incident, and to demonstrate her resolute chastity, Lucretia took her own life with a dagger. Lucretia belonged to a prominent Roman family and they, outraged, vowed to avenge her death. The native leading men of Rome, who swore an oath while hoisting Lucretia’s bloodied dagger, led a revolution to overthrow the Etruscan king and banned forever any king from entering Rome. Thus, Lucretia, who would rather die than suffer the shameful subjugation of tyrants, is a heroine of both chastity and Republicanism. And her suicide is entwined with the birth of Rome.

Dürer considered her self-sacrifice so momentous & so redeeming that he portrayed Lucretia’s wound to exactly mirror that of Christ. Compare with Lamentation of Christ, for Albert Glim (1503). (That the wound which birthed Rome should match the wound that Jesus received from a Roman soldier is a symbolism-ouroboros for abler mind-snake charmers!) Apparently, however, Dürer’s idealization of Lucretia was not reverent enough for the viewing public of “prudish Catholic Munich around 1600”. The authorities felt that for a symbol of ultimate chastity Lucretia’s loincloth was not adequate. And so, more than half a century after Dürer’s death, Lucretia’s loincloth was “expanded upwards”! What’s funny here is that church censors were not the only ones who saw it necessary to further cover Lucretia’s (fictional) flesh. In Chaucer’s dream-vision poem The Legend of Good Women (c. 1380) Lucretia, that “noble wyf”, is presented as so modest & dignified & chaste that as she lay dying she took care to adjust her gown to cover her ankles!


Animal Punishment

March 30, 2013

Animal Punishment

What a god wants

January 15, 2013


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”?


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:

New Eyes for Old News

September 28, 2012

Our brainy chum & co-brogger T.—who looks to be the bearded baby had Oliver Reed & Alan Bates conceived during the wrestling scene in Women In Love—has recently produced an crucial video essay.

The essay explores the relationship between Image and Revolution through a sustained examination of the documentary images of the Arab Spring.

Pivotal & dramatic moments of the Arab Spring were viewed globally by millions through live satellite feeds, and we are often told that the revolutionary impulse was driven by these images as they spread across youtube & twitter & facebook &tc.

How should we, a distant audience, understand these images? What exactly do they capture? The spirit of the revolutionary moment?

Central concerns for those who wish to document/study social change. Central concerns for those interested in the power/impotence of political art. In our worlb that is so often mediated by imagery & experienced vicariously through screens of one sort or another, this b necessary commentary.

Program Note: No is lunch break cat video; the essay establishes its argument gradually, diligently over 15 minutes. PREFERRED VIEWING SETTING = INCAN STONE TEMPLE CONVERTED TO MEDIA LABORATORY

old news

September 17, 2012

A ridiculous place for my hat

September 11, 2012

Franz Kafka records in his diary of 28 March 1911 a visit to the hotel room of the prominent theosophist Dr. Rudolf Steiner.

In his room I try to show my humility, which I cannot feel, by seeking out a ridiculous place for my hat. I lay it down on a small wooden stand for lacing boots.

My Soi Disant Life

August 31, 2012

Several years ago the anthropologist/philosopher Jonathan Lear wrote an fascinating book (excellently reviewed here by Charles Taylor) about doomspirals’ fav topic: kultural devastation.

Lear explores this theme through an account of the Crow Tribe’s forced relocation to a reservation in the 19th century—& how this uprooting deeply undermined Crow society. Before displacement, the Crow were a nomadic people of the Great Plains whose way of life was intimately linked to the buffalo. The movement of the buffalo dictated the movement of the Crow; the social status of Crow men hinged on their relation to the hunt and the courage displayed protecting the tribe’s hunting grounds; the roles of Crow women revolved around facilitating the hunt and managing its bounty; and Crow women derived great pride in the ability and courage of their kinsmen. In this way, the hunt influenced the rhythms and rituals of the tribe, influencing marriage selection, social hierarchy, burial honors, as well as daily activities.

The central text through which Lear tells his story is a recollection of Chief Plenty Coups, who led the Crow through the transitional period into the confinement of the reservation. “When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again,” Chief Plenty Coups recounts. “After this nothing happened.”

Lear’s book takes great lengths puzzling over the words “after this nothing happened”. Plenty Coups, presumably, does not mean that nothing transpired after the tribe was confined on the reservation. But the motivating purpose of the tribe had been suddenly removed; the acts of greatest importance and symbolic value ceased to hold meaning, and the very roles that constituted a Crow being a Crow ceased even to be possible.

[The Crow] problem, then, was not simply that they could not pursue happiness in the traditional ways. Rather, their conception of what happiness is could no longer be lived. The characteristic activities that used to constitute the good life ceased to be intelligible acts. A crucial blow to their happiness was a loss of the concepts with which their happiness had been understood.

A principal example of this dissolution of cultural meaning was the transformation of “coup sticks” from elevated cultural object to inert ornament. On the Plains, it was the practice of Crow warriors to plant a stake (a “coup stick”) in the ground, which marked a boundary that if the enemy crossed, the Crow warrior would defend to the death. It was of supreme status in society to be a man who could “count” many “coups”. Thus, the significance of the chief’s tribal name: Plenty Coups. But, with life on the reservation, after the buffalo, all significance was emptied from coup sticks. Old virtues were no longer possible. No more coups could be counted.

Was this morning reading an crazy story of a Montana man who was killed attempting to stage a Big Foot hoax. Stalking along a wooded highway in a full-body Chewbacca-type camouflage outfit, the man meant to spook passing motorists, but was instead struck by a passing car. It was one of those sad, weird ephemeral stories that float across our internet radar screens and pass as entertainment(?) in our nonsense culture. But what caught mine eye was a comment beneath the story by “BonzoDog1”:

“Highway 93 is notorious for being one of the most deadly roadways in Montana without any hijinks.  At least only the fool died. The two young women could have easily died or been seriously injured, too.
I thought too of several young members of the Crow Tribe who died in the 1990s trying to count coup by slapping the fenders of passing 18-wheelers going 80 mph on I-90 through the rez.

I don’t know if “count coup” is a phrase in current/regional circulation, or if any Crow actually used this phrase to describe the horrible event, or if this internet commenter is merely a royal butthead trafficking loaded phrases. But is it not vastly sad how the old rituals have been made low, profaned? Not that these young men profaned the old rituals but that there is no possibility to practice them? (As when Aristotle tells us that happiness is the function of exercising noble virtues, and we think: ‘I can’t really do those in junk-house trash-life 2012′?) Though Lear paints a devastating portrait of the reality of culture death, he does so to tell another story. After all, the book is titled Radical Hope. Lear writes of the continuity of the Crow people. He discusses how, through mobilizing Crow imagery and history, Chief Plenty Coups was able to re-imagine Crow values and rituals, transplanting them into the new context of the reservation, ultimately helping the tribe adapt and persevere. But… the slapping-truck-fenders story is a discouraging sign of the grim state of Plenty Coups’ project, and of, y’know, the centripetal tug of ye olde Boschian gyre. [&BTW, TanFin tells me that “counting coups” is the source of the band name “The Counting Crows”. Ugh/Ack, Modrn Lyf = Long December.]

Serious Meta-Coup Action

August 14, 2012

Remember how in February 2011 as Mubarak was flailing/faltering it seemed that revolutionary forces in the street might take control? But then the military staged a palace coup in which SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) shoved Mubarak overboard and seized the helm of power? And do you remember how at the hour of Morsi’s electoral victory the SCAF doubled down on their coup by issuing a Constitutional Decree that robbed the office of the presidency of most of its meaningful powers? (And all this upon the judicial coup several days prior that dissolved the unfriendly parliament & affirmed the constitutionality of the candidacy of the SCAF-friendly candidate…) Right, so we were already operating deep in a coup coop. And now, this week: Egypt went full coup crazy.

In the background: Since Morsi’s election, the balance of power between the new president and SCAF has been uncertain. However, Morsi’s authority vis-a-vis SCAF had been rising since last week’s deadly attack in Sinai that showcased the military’s incompetence. In the wake of the Sinai attack, Morsi flexed/tested his muscle by firing/demoting several senior officials. In response, there began rumblings within the old establishment that Morsi had gone too far/was growing too powerful—accompanied by predictions that Field Marshal Tantawi & co. would move to re-capture powers from Morsi. Some speculated a new SCAF coup later this month. Then, unexpectedly on Sunday, Morsi reshuffled national power by kicking the old guard of SCAF upstairs, replacing them with younger officers (Gen. al-Sissi & co., who recognize the need to reorient military-civilian relations and worried Tantawi risked heading further in the wrong direction.) And at the same time Morsi announced the nullification of the Constitutional Decree that had muzzled his power.

Thus, within the prevailing coup context, Morsi staged a coup built upon a coup within the military ranks (Sissi usurping Tantawi) that was a preemptive measure against a further military coup (Tantawi overtaking Morsi). As others have described: “a pre-emptive coup against a coup within a coup”. Toto wild style.

BTW 1/2. While announcing the nullification of the Constitutional Decree, Morsi also named a high-ranking judge as his VP. Shrewdly this helps Morsi take cover from future expected politicized attacks from the judiciary. And, thus making Paul Ryan the second most significant VP announcement of the weekend.

BTW 2/2. Of the new, incoming military leadership, the arabist asks/answers: “Wouldn’t it be nice if one of these guys had written, say, a 10,000 word essay on his views of the future of US strategy in the Middle East? Well it turns out one of them — no less than Sedky Sobhy, the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the number two in the hierarchy — did just that while studying in a military school in the US, as many Egyptian officers do.” Makes for an interesting read!

Take that flute and flute it

August 8, 2012

Advance apologies for sloshing into mainstream electoral politics.

This morning I was reading the Post‘s lead editorial [ugh, what has my life come 2???] concerning Harry Reid’s ongoing challenge to Mitt Romney that he reveal his tax returns. Harry Reid latest tactic is to speculate publicly that Romney didn’t pay any income taxes for 10 years. Seems like a pretty standard political gambit, right? Reid is overreaching, sure, but to refute the charge Romney would have to release embarrassing information. But the Post is aghast.

If the senator has any proof, he owes it to Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to put it on the record, now. Otherwise, Mr. Reid ought to pause and reflect on the record of another senator who once claimed to have a list of Communists and spies at the State Department — and could not substantiate it.

Oh shit, is the Post insinuating that Harry Reid is as bad as Joseph McCarthy? Oh, wait, no, it’s not insinuation:

Mr. Reid’s smear tactics are not unlike those of Joseph McCarthy and deserve equal condemnation.

KABOOM! Baiting a presidential nominee about his un-disclosed tax filings is on par with the broad & systematic witch hunts of private citizens by the House Un-American Activities Committee? I’d say the Post doesn’t know any better… except that the term “McCarthyism” was coined by The Washington Post! One can only assume then, that drawing this insane moral equivalence stems from a pandemic of false consciousness for our financial overlords.


Did I mention that I bought a COFFIN?


[Every time I hear Harry Reid’s name I automatically think of the epic hit song “Reed Flute” by the underground sensation I’m In Love With You.]

Stay Classy, Washington Post

August 2, 2012

And who’s this ‘analyst’, Sylvester Stalone?? Da’fuck kind of mindless macho posturing is this? Not appropriate tone for international news headline!

Abstract chest-thumping about a distant civil war in which you have no stake or concern? Oh yeah, down here in the news room we like to keep our violence fantasies flippant! Hey Brian, do you want anything from Cosi, I’m gonna get an iced coffee…

Plein Air Gallery

May 15, 2012

Street art in Cairo, updated. Apologies in advance for the annoying yellow date stamps on all the pictures: jah bought a no-name digital camera in Bab al-Louq & there isn’t an option to turn off the date stamp–or even change the date!

The words dribbling from Mubarak/Tantawi’s chin read: He Who Delegates, Doesn’t Die. (When Mubarak abdicated power Suleiman announced that Mubarak was exiting the scene but “delegating” power to SCAF, thus personally appointing the legacy leadership.) BTW, Face/Off is somehow a very popular movie & meme here. Last Ramadan, Ahmed Micki starred in a popular comedy series that spoofed the Travolta/Cage art house masterpiece.

Along Mohamed Mahmoud, the street where revolutionaries battled security forces last December, artists have created memorial murals of the martyred youth.

The neon paint is somehow very affecting. Here, and the wings of the young men.

Many of the youth on the frontlines of this battle were Ultras, or soccer fan collectives. After a fan of Ahly was killed in a notorious shootout with the military, the head coach of the team—a Portuguese expat—instructed his coaching staff all to wear t-shirts featuring the boy’s face onto the pitch. Some in the press complained that the foreign coach was meddling in Egyptian affairs, but most applauded the rare prominent individual to rebuke military violence. Yes, his foreign passport shielded him from punishment, and yes he risked career not incarceration, but it was a bold and poignant gesture.

Martyrs Gallery along Mohamed Mahmoud. (These young faces died in the Port Said Stadium tragedy.)

The mixture of Pharaonic & contemporary motifs is stunning. I hope to learn more about the particular allusions. (In Alex there is a gorgeous, heavily stylized mural of a ghoul lassoing a crocodile, overseen by a peacock. I asked an Egyptian friend about the meaning. “It comes from mythology… the crocodile is Mubarak being punished for declaring himself a god… but the story is more complicated.”)

Pharaonic funerary procession along Mohamed Mahmoud St. (Right half of image)


Pharaonic funerary procession along Mohamed Mahmoud St. (Right half of image)




Hyenas, masks, gods. On the Nile side of the old AUC library.


Eldritch beasts, mythical turmoil.


Struggle as dance.


Three-headed Hydra of SCAF running the length of the block.


Hosni & Suzanne, two heads of the same serpent.

A few Fridays ago I was at the terrible scene of Abbasiya with several journalist friends and I was introduced to a young woman named Samira. We exchanged pleasantries, but didn’t say much in the hectic scene. When the violence got out of hand our group headed back to the car and someone mentioned, “You know Samira, right? She’s the only one who stood up to the military’s ‘virginity tests’ in court.” Oh my, that Samira. [The black inverse-logic of military authoritarianism: to ensure the ‘purity’ of Egyptian women, we will be the ones to violate them.] On the drive to Tahrir my journalist friend commented to Samira, “I love seeing your stencil around the city. Makes me smile every time.” Looking out the window, I began to notice on city walls the dignified face seated next to me.

Samira Ibrahim above the military. Heroine of personal rights, dignity.

Of course, the Egyptian judicial system cleared the perverted perpetrators of any wrongdoing.

Samira Ibrahim above the military, with anguished hieroglyph captions.

(I posted the picture below a few days ago, but just now noticed Selima’s face in the upper left-hand corner, above the Banksy dude’s projectile.)

Banksy + Ballerina + Farrah.

Quite like the impressionistic fluid urban stage the two dance in. And, yes, the Bart Simpson middle finger poking the Etoile David. And, speaking of impressionism, consider this small tangent: Cloisonnism.


In advance of the elections, someone tried to take Mubarak’s Face/Off face off.

But guess who had the last laugh?

BAM! Now we can see the full ancien régime entourage! Amr Moussa & Ahmed Shafiq.

(Again, the caption reads: He Who Delegates, Didn’t Die. When Mubarak fled to his resort on the Red Sea, he appointed Shafiq as Prime Minister. In Tahrir Square that February many people distributed bright yellow stickers that read simply “No To Shafiq”. I kept several as souvenirs. And now. Now, a year and a half later, Shafiq is in the run-off election for the presidency. SO DISPIRITING. What was this whole grinding struggle for? To get back to Zero? A joke you hear these days:: People used to say Mubarak was a good man; it was the people around him who were bad. Now that Mubarak is gone… they are voting for the people around him!)


P.P.S./ 2nd Update: Many of the murals photographed above are captured better by a blogger called suzeeinthecity. Suzee identifies many of the artists and provides background on the inspiration for many works. A wonderful archive.

Art Against Army

February 2, 2012

Under the 6 October overpass in Zemalek.

The butt-crack is a deft touch to convey the military henchmen as base & brute. [If a butt-crack can ever be a deft touch…] The tank on the left until recently was part of a larger mural: a poetic stand-off between the hulking tank and a bread delivery boy on bicycle.

During the Mohamed Mahmoud St. violence in December—the episode in which the military insisted no violence was occurring despite all TV screens to the contrary—the most terrible & powerful image was that of a military gang stripping & stomping a woman; literally dragging her across the square by her hair. Her crime: apparently she had come to the square to give lunch packets to the demonstrators.

A man I came across in Tahrir on the 25th had a proposal for justice. Or perhaps commentary on the military self-destructing through violence against the people. Powerful poster.


All Nour, No Party

December 1, 2011

Two Fridays ago there was a large demonstration in Alexandria organized in part by the Salafist political party Hizb al-Nour. The demonstration was staged in response to the so-called Selmi Document—a provision proposed by the SCAF (interim military government) that would create “supra-Constitutional principles”—principles above and outside the reach of any new government or new constitution. Specifically, these provisions would protect the autonomy & the budget of the military. Yeah, totally whack. Obviously, it defeats the idea of a constitution to have legal principles more fundamental than the highest law, and it defeats the idea of a republic to have laws that the legislature cannot amend. So the Nour Party, along with other groups, brought thousands of demonstrators into the streets.

Anti-Selmi Document demonstration in Sidi Gabr, Alexandria

Anti-SCAF / anti-Selmi Document peaceniks at the demonstration

Al Nour’s anti-Selmi position is in the right, but hold up… let’s not be hypocritical… I’ve seen your campaign murals in Mamura Balad!

"Al Nour Party: The Qur'an is our Constitution"

Umm, this is making me think that you’re not opposed to supra-Constitutional principles in principle, but merely opposed to other groups’ supra-Constitutional principles. Such as the SCAF. I mean, what could be more supra-Constitutional than proclaiming “We’ve got this other book that is our real Constitution”?

This gets at my main beef with the Salafists. Dawgs deny the legitimacy of a civil state and, in an air-kiss to fascism, reject pluralism. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dismiss dudes out of hand—Doomspirals Foreign Bureau meets with all parties & political affiliations!—but their rhetoric is on a steady creep toward telling other people what to do in the name of a supernatural being.

Doomspirals Foreign Bureau (+ assistant) meeting with Al Nour representative

No need for pluralism. "Islam is a General System that Suits Everybody"

And they’re turning up the heat around here; imposing their scoop flavor on everybody’s cone. It hits too close to home when I start seeing signs like this!

It’s hard to say if this café is pronouncing shisha “forbidden” out of religious pressure. (Or, maybe the image is just trying to say it’s forbidden to smoke shisha here with your shoes off if you’re a clip-art bohemian.) Either way, new crappy vibes akin to this jibe with my real problem with Salafists: they do not have an Egyptian personality. They are not warm, they do not take life easy, they do not return smiles, they are not gregarious, they have a grim-gross style. They’re nothing like my man, the max-popular Hoba, who spins a hilarious tale about smoking shisha in the jam embedded below.

Hoba here sings of a night out with his friends smoking shisha. After a couple of hagars he throws some funny business on the coals and his friends’ faces begin to warble & morph. He decamps from the café and begins his long, strange walk home, encountering trippy visions: an ant carrying an elephant, a wolf playing with ducks. At 1:20 he starts crooning I’m searching, I’m searching, I’m searching… What is he searching for, I asked my friend. “Himself.” Boing!

I meet regular dudes who tell me they’re Salafists… and I’m like, no you’re not! You’re wearing a pink sweatshirt with a rad yellow snowboarder and talking to me about how Texas has the best biggest cars and the best blondest babes. You tell me the Salafists are the “best Muslims” so you’re like, yeah, me too, and obviously they’d make the best parliamentarians: their uptight, bossy morals are the best qualification for office.


Look, we can’t have Salafists take over this fair city and impose restrictions on leisure by banning smoking shisha by the sea or, what next, our Egyptian night-sports (backgammon, dominoes)? If you wanna get real O.G. salafist about it, the easy vibes were here before even the time of the Prophet; and you tempt fate trying to harsh the long-standing mellow. Was it not Antony who said to Cleopatra here in Alexandria…

Now for the love of Love, and her soft hours,

Let’s not confound the time with conference harsh;

There’s not a minute of our lives we should stretch

Without some pleasure now.    What sport to-night?

Grim Peeper

October 26, 2011

Leontius, the son of Aglaion, was coming up from the Piraeus, close to the outer side of the north wall, when he saw some dead bodies lying near the executioner and he felt a desire to look at them, and at the same time felt disgust at the thought, and tried to turn aside. For some time he fought with himself and put his hand over his eyes, but in the end the desire got the better of him, and opening his eyes wide with his fingers he ran forward to the bodies, saying, “There you are, curse you, have your fill of the lovely spectacle!”

Plato, Republic, Book IV


Number of the ten most popular prime-time television dramas that regularly feature corpses: 8

Harper’s, March 2011


Everybody Loves Raymond Looking Qaddafi’s Slain Corpse! True, prime-time drama gives us a good sample-spoon of necro-gawking, but on special occasions we get the real thing! Sci-fi distopianists/CNN have long promised us live war & death as entertainment, but it’s hardly as regular or often as we might like. But what a feast for the eyes we’ve had lately in Libya! And where’s his body now?? In the industrial fridge?? In the desert!! I hope bedouins don’t exhume his shallow grave because they’re only likely to have lo-res cell phone video capability, which is good for that authentic snuff film vibe, but the blood hues and depth-of-field for deep gashes are well nigh of satisfactory.

I swear, if it weren’t for all the iPads lying around, I might think the 21st Century wasn’t too modern. Hunting down Arab kings and killing them like village dogs? Am I reading all this on a boastful parchment scroll brought back from Antioch in the Lord’s Year 1245? Are we bringing back desiccated heads from battle and hoisting them on pikes in the town square? I’m glad that the New York Times has found its calling in the digital age! The more things change, the worse they get! It’s also cool how the hard-learned lessons/rationale of the international tribunals at Nuremburg or Tokyo or The Hague are not even garbled side-chatter in the national conversation… forget we ever learned 1 thing about transitional justice/salvaging an teensy slice of humanity from carnage… everybody just do that right-dark urge!

How quaint a disposition, that young Leontius! How passé to be conflicted about staring at the gory result of public executions. Don’t worry, history won’t frown on your grim-grave voyeurism. In a few short centuries the Romans will spread gladiatorial arenas about the realm and institutionalize blood-sport death-entertainment. In Libya even? You bet! Shit, about a hundred miles from modern-day Sirte they built a massive arena at Leptis Magna where archaeologists recently uncovered an huge mosaic depicting a gladiator “resting in a state of fatigue and staring at his slain opponent.” Like Pee-Wee said: Take a picture [make a mosaic], it’ll last longer. This gazing-at-gazing-at-corpse art—esteemed by scholars as one of the finest examples of representational mosaics extant and a “masterpiece comparable in quality with the Alexander Mosaic in Pompeii”—originally graced the walls of a dang swimming pool at a Roman villa. Ah yes, spare no expense to capture in portrait the unfortunates of mortal combat… an glorious ting to ogle whilst splish-splash chillaxin in my roman play-tub.

Joyce Carol Oates, an aficionado of face-punching, wrote in On Boxing (1987) that the allure of the brutal contest is the dramatic arc of the fight and, ultimately, the satisfaction of “a final and incontestable judgment”. The spectators enjoy vicariously the struggle and share in the triumph. And when this spectacle is geo-political we all get to play at Empire and share in the kill, the final judgment. Now, as with the ancient arena, once the opponent “lay prone on the sands, everyone regardless of status or age could indulge in a short-lived group fantasy of being a dominus, a master, with the power to grant life or death.”

And what better way to play empire than dress-up?! This Halloween, go gung-ho for country and show the whole neighborhood that you, too, have internalized the sociopathic ideals of constant global warfare and that you are on trend with Arabphobia.


Oh yeah, we got him! And now that the death-image trophy is beamed real-time to all our glowing screens we can recline & glib-smug-chuckle at the distant death of our imperial villains.

The satisfaction of “a final and incontestable judgment” indeed!

I like how the Late Night Show, which has nothing to say on any weighty matter, weighs in on the metaphysical terrain of HELL. Y’know, our show doesn’t have any religious affiliation, and we don’t really condemn or endorse anything of consequence, but from time to time we like to venture a lil’ divine judgement on the passage of souls in the afterlife. In jest of course.

It gives the show real backbone! We are not wishy-washy; we take absolute stands on matters of moral gravity! Reminds me of how the Washington Post editorial board recently took a bold, courageous stand against the inscription on the MLK memorial you’ve got his meaning all wrong! — while never pecking one lonesome keystroke for anything resembling MLK’s message. This, of course, the same editorial board that championed the Iraq War with red spirals in their eye(s). e.g. See Section A1 for our coverage on Fuck Peace; See the Style Section for our beloved annual contest Fuck Peeps.



Should have better known

October 19, 2011

You know that sinking feeling you had during the big bank bailouts when you realized that the public rescue packages came with no strings attached? You know, that moment when the banks were panicked & desperate and the government had the golden opportunity to say, “if you want this money, it comes with serious reforms”? But instead, nothing was done and we let them dust off, regain their footing, and now they’re back 2 dem kool old wayz… almost as if no one learned anything! The expression of frustration that always comes to mind is: we had them on the mat.

I think a lot of Egyptians had a similar feeling in the months after Mubarak fell, when the remnants of the old regime were disoriented and defeated. “Now is the time to change the old institutions,” an activist told me. “But I see nothing happening.” The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had the chance to fundamentally re-shape the country’s security sector—that monstrous body that propped up the old regime—but it wavered and did nothing, for whatever reason.

Now after the sinister attack on Christian demonstrators this month at Maspero in downtown Cairo I wonder if even SCAF itself is beginning to regret letting the old, corrupt security apparatus up from the mat? Yasmine El Rashid’s new piece at NYRB suggests some of the culprits behind this recent massacre in Cairo:

Then there is the matter of paid thugs who seem to have taken part. Official government memos obtained by local newspapers in recent weeks indicate that there is a network of some 165,000 thugs who worked for the State Security apparatus and who have been used by agents of the former regime in various assaults over the past six months. Within army ranks, it is believed that destabilizing SCAF itself may be one of their targets; a plot orchestrated from within the existent and underground remnants of Mubarak’s security apparatus. Indeed, amid the violence of Maspero, plainclothes state security agents and thugs seemed to have played more of a part then the soldiers themselves as the night wore on.

What is it they say happens when you make dealz w/ the devil?


Occult Pie, Walls Treat

October 18, 2011

Mr. NYT scribbled an article yesterday, “Protesters Debate What Demands, if Any, They Should Make“—another in its WHAT DO THEY WANT? series. 1 ting absent from this ongoing Ballad-of-a-Thin-Man coverage is that the initial call to action in Adbusters explicitly urged demonstrators to coalesce around a single, simple demand.

On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.

Tahrir succeeded in large part because the people of Egypt made a straightforward ultimatum – that Mubarak must go – over and over again until they won. Following this model, what is our equally uncomplicated demand?

I’m not arguing one way/the other re: protest strategy, I’m just saying: do a lil googlin, journalists!

BTW, the co-author of that original pitch, Micah White—Adbusters wunderkind & pal of this brog—is establishing himself as a pen to watch. His brog is Blackspot. He dreamt Occupy Wall Street as a refutation of clicktavism. & his magazine bio speaks to this posture.

Micah White is a senior editor at Adbusters. He gained an insider perspective on the folly of clicktivism after a brief stint with the Citizen Engagement Laboratory. He resigned in disgust.

Ha. Always good to include “disgust” in your bio blurb!

Heartbreak Hotel

September 12, 2011