Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

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

Wikipedia Entry of the Day: Aurora consurgens

February 4, 2013


The Aurora consurgens is an illuminated manuscript of the 15th century in the Zürich Zentralbibliothek (MS. Rhenoviensis 172). It contains a medieval alchemical treatise, in the past sometimes attributed to Thomas Aquinas, now to a writer called the “Pseudo-Aquinas”. Unusually for a work of this type, the manuscript contains thirty-eight fine miniatures in watercolour. The illustrations are allegorical representations of alchemical elements depicted in human or animal form. For example, mercury is depicted as a serpent;gold as the Sun and silver as the Moon.


January 31, 2013

During the early days of the Egyptian revolution, I returned to the old Doomspirals houseboat to chat with our friend Mohamed, the bowwab (doorman, groundskeeper). I asked Mohamed who was living here now, and in a hushed tone he confided that the Police Chief of Waraq (the agricultural island just to the north) was hiding out on the boat—a guest of our landlord. In response to decades of maltreatment, the residents of Waraq had torched the police station, and the police chief was on the lam.

The Waraq police station has been back in the news lately for—guess what—police torture. From Al-Ahram:

According to Sameh’s brother, Abd El-Mohsen Farrag, Sameh [a 48 year-old clothes merchant from Imbaba] visited Al-Waraq police station on Tuesday to enquire about a friend who had been detained there.

Police later visited Farag’s family home and asked them to receive Sameh’s dead body from the Imbaba public hospital.

Upon their arrival, Farag’s family found Sameh’s body half naked with a swollen face, handcuff marks around his wrists and bloodstains on his feet.

A classic incident. A man—who is not even implicated in a crime—visits a local police station. And for meddling in police business receives the typical police treatment. If this follows the standard script to the end, the police will claim that Sameh was a drug dealer who tried to assault the officers.

Have you been following the latest violent developments in Port Said? The war between the people and the police-state? The trigger was the recent court verdict that sentenced 21 Port Said men to death for their involvement in last year’s Port Said Stadium Tragedy (in which 70+ fans from Cairo died in a horrific rampage). In a good video interview on the NYT our friend David Kirkpatrick explains that the court ruling is seen in Port Said as biased & politically motivated—levied to appease to the Cairo streets. But there is another, larger framework, too. Remember that the police are blamed (rightly or wrongly) in Port Said for the stadium deaths. And now 21 Port Said residents have been sentenced to the noose, whereas no police officers have been charged for any crimes (of negligence or otherwise). This is a toxic situation. In the two days following the verdict, 30 young men died (including a man in a wheelchair) in clashes with the Port Said police. And now—in this city where the courts are viewed as an appendage of the police state—the question is: you still demand 21 more bodies?

Protests in Port Said. Notice the black shirt carrying the ubiquitous slogan: A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards)

Protests in Port Said. Notice the black shirt carrying the ubiquitous slogan: A.C.A.B. (All Cops Are Bastards)

In response to recent chaos, President Morsi has called (feebly) for a ‘national dialogue’. Reportedly, a component of this dialogue will be a study committee dedicated to security. One wonders if the deep dysfunction of the security state will be meaningfully addressed. The reconciliation between the people & the police is fundamental to the future stability of Egypt. More violence—the Mubarak solution—is not the answer.


p.s. Overlapping the police narrative, is the related issue of Port Said as a flashpoint in the wider federalism debate in Egypt—where all sate power resides in Cairo and the rights of the periphery remain, well, peripheral. For a nice look at the marginalization of the Sinai, check this short documentary produced by our pal Anjali Kamat for Al-Jazeera.

p.p.s. did you see this incredible photo of the protests in downtown Cairo?

Kempinski protest

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“]

old news

September 17, 2012

America is Killing its Youth

July 31, 2012



Ghost Rider (live @ Max’s KC 1976)

Keep Your Dreams (orig. version)

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.


don’t much care for our in-house mercenary overlords

October 29, 2011

Lockheed Martin, by their own admission, is run by a cabal of satanic zombies. The below picture (untampered!) of top executives appeared in the corporation’s 2009 Annual Report. Ahh! Just look at those bloodless motherfuckers!

Like all real monsters, these ghouls try relentlessly to break into my house (through the radio).

Every morning I am subjected to Lockheed Martins’ slogan, slavishly read by NPR announcers:

Lockheed Martin: We never forget who we’re working for

And… umm… who exactly is that? The highest bidder? Pakistan, Israel, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Chile, or any other of your dozen-plus foreign government warfare? Maybe the United Arab Emirates, to whom you leaked classified information and tried to arrange illegal arms sales? Or maybe you mean the American government, the source of 80% of your revenue? But that’d be a little weird considering you’ve been convicted of fraud by the federal government in each of the last three years and rank #1 in the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database with 57 legal violations since 1995 and nearly $600m in fines. So maybe you just mean the American people more generally. That’d make some sense. After all, as the largest ‘defense’ contractor in the world and hyper-siphon of public moneys, Americans essentially pay an annual Lockheed Martin Tax. Dag, in 2009 alone you received upwards of $125 for every man, woman, and transgender baby in the Union.

And as war profiteers/mongers, it’s very cute of your marketing department to devise a slogan that incorporates never forget. I bet you do hope we never forget! The Globo War On Terror has been an un-small boon for biz. Snap, since 9/11 shares of your stock have nearly quadrupled in price! Congrats, you’re making a killing! I hate you!

I’m just saying, I reserve a special Fuck You for Lockheed Martin. I rank my personal Lockheed Martin Fuck You above even my Goldman Sachs Fuck You—I mean, shit, Lockheed Martin got bailed out too.

But anyway! this is old news! I only bring up this dirty [blood-stained] laundry because of some ripe bullshit I And I heard on the Kojo Nnamdi Show yesterday. Apparently, the Montgomery County Council passed a non-binding peace resolution that mildly suggests the federal gov’t should reassess its spending priorities in this Era of Austerity; that our nation would be better served by investing less in war and more in education & health & infrastructure. VERY KONTROVERSIAL, I KNOW!

But Lockheed Martin no likey! They dispatched their $10m/year lobby team to dress down the peacenik council! And there is talk of Lockheed leaving Maryland altogether if Marylanders are going to be so unhelpful to the war cause! Waaaah! The Chair of the County Council sympathized with his bros at Lockheed and warned the Council against passing the resolution, stating that it is “a dagger pointed directly at the heart of Montgomery County”. Sweet murder imagery, you tool! And I like how weapons manufacturing is “at the heart” of Montgomery County… I told you these dudes openly admit to being satanic zombies.

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?


Heartbreak Hotel

September 12, 2011

Friday Blues Pt. 2

September 10, 2011

Get Ready for the Future, it is Murder

August 13, 2011

Look at just how evil Bear is! Also FAT and LAZY! I’m surprised the artist didn’t think to depict a Dorito-stained welfare check-stub and/or skull-shaped bong (cf. Bull’s chiseled pecs and proactive approach!)

Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth

June 11, 2011


The Meaningless Nothing of Empty Everything

June 9, 2011

From the July issue of Harper’s, an excerpt of an excerpt, but that’s what blogs are for, amirite? This is well-trod territory (as usual), but I’ve been thinking about “work” a lot lately (LOL). Apparently the author teaches philosophy at University of Toronto…maybe I should contact him, see if he can get me a job.

And now I’ll do’t

June 7, 2011

The initial statement released by the president of Yemen after a June 3 explosion struck the presidential palace mosque was oblique—almost Delphic: “If you are well, I am well”, which led most observers to conclude that President Saleh’s injuries were more serious than his aides indicated. Initial reports were that a mortar rocket had cleared the palace perimeter and somehow crashed down on the mosque where Saleh was attending Friday prayers. News comes today that Saleh (who is undergoing surgery in Riyadh) is in grave condition and that officials now believe the explosion came from a bomb planted in the mosque, perhaps in the minbar.

The source of the explosion, which killed several guards and the imam of the mosque and injured a dozen government officials and Saleh allies, has also been mysterious. It was initially believed to have come from a mortar or rocket attack from outside the compound.

But as the investigation continued, opinion has shifted to the possibility of at least one or more explosive devices having been planted, including in the minbar, or pulpit, a Western official said. Many of those injured were struck by shards of wood, including the president.

The explosive material also apparently contained some kind of agent that spurred flames, a Western diplomat said. Mr. Saleh was said to be bowing at the time of the explosion. “He was very close, and that is why he was burned,” said the Western official.

I now invite scholars of Yemeni politics and scholars of Hamlet (III, iii) to discuss the wisdom and implications of (not) assassinating a head of state while he is composed in prayer.

Blass From The Past: This Old Chestnut

May 20, 2011

Seems as good a time as any to revisit this little gem. BTW, should we talk about celebrating death now, or later? When do we get to talk about how stupid the idea of “countries” is? Can we talk about “who” deserves “what”??

Clarification! Retraction!

March 1, 2011

When I suggested in an earlier post that some capable military should destroy the Libyan Air Force, this was in the context of Qaddafi attacking his own people with fighter jets. At the time it seemed like there might be an extended campaign of murdering protesters with F-16s—and it seemed like this should be stopped!

But now that U.S. ships are closing in on Libya and neo-cons are dusting off the old dream, I TAKE EVERYTHING BACK! I mean, I know that the American leadership has proven it has stellar insight into the political dynamics of the region and the two ongoing foreign wars have been executed with glistening wisdom, but… [And I recognize that such an intervention is founded on bold virtue, seeing as how international condemnation gained momentum as it became clear that Qaddafi was through. (Oh shit, someone else might control those maxi oil fields! We better arrange proper introductions!)]

Also, can we get back to basics on this one: The top four European countries who lobbied to end the ban on arms sales to Libya in 2004—France, Germany, UK, Italy—were the same countries that became the top exporters of weapons to Qaddafi.

Also, one for the blooper reel:

“The [Obama] administration has submitted a proposed budget for fiscal 2011 that included military assistance increases for Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Oman and Yemen. Officials said several Middle East countries also received forward funding over the last year as part of the Foreign Military Financing program.”