Monday, March 31, 2008

Zizek on Democracy Now!

Philosopher Slavoj Zizeck on Democracy Now

Last night on TV I turned over to this documentary on Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek last at the end of the above Part 3. Where Žižek is explaining the vast and complex play field he has assembled from lego, soldiers, happy meals, dolls, cars and so on with his son; showing the lesbian queens who rule over the land...I thought...hhmmm this looks interesting. This is a fascinating voyeuristic picture of Žižek. I borrowed The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989) and read a little of it a few years ago, but was doing course work and had to return it before getting very far.

According to everybody's friend. The Wikipedia:

One of the problems in outlining Žižek's work and ideas is that for the layperson he seems to change his theoretical position (for instance, on the question of whether Lacan is a structuralist or poststructuralist) between books and sometimes even within the pages of one book. Because of this, some of his critics have accused him of inconsistency and lacking intellectual rigor. However, Ian Parker claims that there is no "Žižekian" system of philosophy because Žižek, with all his inconsistencies, is trying to make us think much harder about what we are willing to believe and accept from a single writer (Parker, 2004). Indeed, Žižek himself defends Jacques Lacan for constantly updating his theories, arguing that it is not the task of the philosopher to act as the Big Other who tells us about the world but rather to challenge our own ideological presuppositions. The philosopher, for Žižek, is more someone who criticizes than someone who tries to answer questions.

I myself don't think this is such a problem. I think I will borrow the The Sublime Object of Ideology again.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Slavoj Zizek - The Pervert's Guide to Cinema


THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA takes the viewer on an exhilarating ride through some of the greatest movies ever made. Serving as presenter and guide is the charismatic Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst. With his engaging and passionate approach to thinking, Zizek delves into the hidden language of cinema, uncovering what movies can tell us about ourselves.

THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA offers an introduction into some of Zizek's most exciting ideas on fantasy, reality, sexuality, subjectivity, desire, materiality and cinematic form. Whether he is untangling the famously baffling films of David Lynch, or overturning everything you thought you knew about Hitchcock, Zizek illuminates the screen with his passion, intellect, and unfailing sense of humour. THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA applies Zizek's ideas to the cinematic canon, in what The Times calls 'an extraordinary reassessment of cinema.'

The film cuts its cloth from the very world of the movies it discusses; by shooting at original locations and on replica sets, it creates the uncanny illusion that Zizek is speaking from within the films themselves. Described by The Times as 'the woman helming this Freudian inquest,' director Sophie Fiennes' collaboration with Slavoj Zizek illustrates the immediacy with which film and television can communicate genuinely complex ideas. Says Zizek: 'My big obsession is to make things clear. I can really explain a line of thought if I can somehow illustrate it in a scene from a film. THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA is really about what psychoanalysis can tell us about cinema.'

THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA is constructed in three parts. Says Fiennes: 'The form of the Guide is a deliberately open one. There are three parts, but there could be more. Zizek's method of thinking is exciting because it's always building. Things relate forwards and backwards and interconnect into a mind-altering network of ideas. The film's title is something of a McGuffin - just a way to get you into this network.'

Friday, March 28, 2008

China Tracy: i.Mirror

China Tracy: i.Mirror part 1

China Tracy: i.Mirror part 2

China Tracy: i.Mirror part 3

China Tracy is Cao Fei, a Guangzhou artist who's "a key member of the vibrant new generation of Chinese artists emerging in the early twenty-first century" (by Art Forum's lights), and has been featured by the New York MOMA, among an intimidating roster of showings at galleries, museums, and biennials across the globe. Highlights in her portfolio include the insanely delightful "Hip Hop" (everyday Chinese get down with African-American freshness) and the virally acclaimed "Cosplayers" (playing videogame superheroes in a post-industrial cityscape where the demand for grand gestures no longer exists.) New World Notes

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Miles Davis & Co. At the Isle of Wight Festival

Start with the first video at the top and move through the four sections. A study in jazz sound mind deconstruction. From 29 August 1970. Taken together these musicians: Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, Dave Holland, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Gary Bartz, paint a riveting picture of Miles' transformation in the late 1960s from jazz icon to musical explorer who fused the improvisational spirit of jazz with influences from rock, soul, funk, world, and folk music.

For the first time ever in a visual medium, something of the focus, magic, power, and excitement of Miles' method and musical journey into jazz-rock comes palpably across. When the concert footage finally arrives expectations are high and the effect of watching it is cathartic.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sitar Gods

Most people in the West who know what a sitar is probably think of Pandit Ravi Shankar as the master of the instrument. While Ravi Shankar was a great player (still alive but no longer playing as far as I know), in a very rhythmic and deliberate way, there are at least two others who I think are far better. I speak of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and Ustad Vilayat Khan. Both played differently but the subtle magic of their styles are breathtaking. Please witness this short extract from Banerjee. It seems to float out from him;

Nikhil Banerjee-BBC performance

And then there is the intricate wonder of Vilayat Khan. I have several tapes of him and it is always uplifting in an otherworldly sense. It just takes you away.

Raag Darbari, Pandit Kishan Maharaj and Late Vilayat Khan

I saw Kishan Maharaj (the tabla player) play in Varanasi in 1996. A four hour performance that started at midnight at the main ghat. The Ganges flowed by as beetle nut sellers skipped along the rows and Pandit Maharaj showed us the business.

One more from Ustad Vilayat Khan just to take you that little bit higher.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady in City Lights

The black and white footage of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady in City Lights bookstore I had seen before, of Neal rapping madly about "everybody following the forms but there is no life in the forms". But I had never seen the whole (??) sequence that begins with Ginsberg reciting Kraj Majales (King of May). Here is is.......

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Theo Jansen: The art of creating creatures

Theo Jansen is the Dutch creator of what he calls "Kinetic Sculptures," where nature and technology meet. Essentially these sculptures are robots powered by the wind only

Theo Jansen (born March 17, 1948, in The Hague, Netherlands) is a Dutch artist and kinetic sculptor. He builds large works which resemble skeletons of animals and are able to walk using the wind on the beaches of the Netherlands. His animated works are a fusion of art and engineering; and in a BMW television commercial, Jansen says, "The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sites of Resistance

Last night I watched the Danish film GUERRILLA GIRL (2005). It is is the story of a young girl who enters the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), the largest insurgent group in Colombia. With unprecedented access, Danish director Frank P. Poulsen follows a training course for future guerrilla soldiers, describing the transformation of a middle-class city-girl having to adapt to strict military training, Marxist ideology and primitive conditions of life.

In a post 9/11 context, the U.S. State Department and other non-government organisations have labelled FARC a "terrorist organization, engaging in terrorist activity including murder, hostage-taking and violent destruction of property". The film elevates the discussion beyond the specific, and in a further perspective deals with the underlying social and political basis of terrorism, in a very humane way.

Unsettling and unforgettable, this film captures with intensity the remarkable metamorphosis the guerrilla recruits undergo, during the 3 month basic training course. From her first arrival to the hidden guerrilla camp, we follow the main character, Isabel, in her quest to become a part of this ideological organisation, and thereby renouncing life as she knows it. It is the classic tale of losing ones innocence, a propelling human interest story.

GUERRILLA GIRL is a critical anti-war-film, from a distant world that people usually have sporadic conceptions or weak prejudice about. From deep within the Colombian jungle, we get the first cinematic in-depth look at the life, trials and tribulations of young men and women who are lead into an ideologically narrow and dangerous life cycle.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Warlpiri educator and scholar Steve Jampijinpa explains the five pillars of Warlpiri culture. This film was made by Steve Jampijinpa, with Maxwell Tasman and Tristan Tasman from Lajamanu, Northern Territory, Australia.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sister Welk

"The Lawrence Welk Show" mash up showing how groovy it really was (or at least could have been). More surreal polka TV can be found HERE.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Four Hundred Years of Oppression"

In traditional Freudian psychoanalytic discourse, as Frantz Fanon describes it in his book Black Skin, White Masks, fantasy and trauma reference the infantile experiences and psyches of individual subjects. However, Sigmund Freud’s thoughts on the origins and possibilities of transmission of trauma and fantasy can hardly be so neatly encapsulated, and, in fact, Fanon’s writings on psychoanalysis and race—in that he argues that racism and colonialism operate not just at the level of economics and power, but also at the level of cultural fantasy—in many ways build on Freud’s work, even as Fanon sought to diverge from the Freudian tradition. But while Fanon’s theories of the origin and transmission of trauma may not have as radically diverged from Freud as Fanon often claimed, perhaps Fanon’s greatest intervention in psychoanalytic thought was his focus on the psychical reality of race and his contention that all subjects in a racialized colonial context—black or white, colonized or colonizer—are constituted in and through cultural fantasies of race. Kami Chisholm

Film sequence from Soul Man (1986)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ofelaš ("Pathfinder", 1987)

Pathfinder (original title in Sami: Ofelaš and in Norwegian: Veiviseren) is a 1987 Norwegian film, directed by Nils Gaup. The movie is based on an old Sami legend.

It was the first full-length film in Sami, and it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988. It was written and directed by Nils Gaup. Nils-Aslak Valkeapää played one of the parts as well as writing the music to the film, together with Kjetil Bjerkestrand and Marius Müller.

In Finnmark around the year 1000, a young Sami named Aigin comes home from hunting to find his family massacred by the Chudes. He flees to the place where he can find friends and relatives, and is chased by the Chudes. He is wounded but makes his way to a community of other Samis who live some distance away. Upon reaching the others, Aigins wound is taken care by the shaman of the group. He gets into a debate with them about how to face the Chude attackers: some argue for meeting them in battle, while others maintain they should all run away toward the coast. Aigin and some of the other hunters remain to meet the Chudes, while the remainder of the group flee. The hunters, except Aigin, who hides, are quickly killed by the numerically superior Chudes, but one of the men, the old shaman-leader is kept alive and tortured. To prevent the torture Aigin reveals himself and offers to act as a Pathfinder for the Chudes to the coastal settlement where a large number of Samis live.

But Aigin has a plan in mind. He cannot overpower the Chudes, but he can trick them. Leading the Chudes across mountainous terrain, Aigin lures the Chudes into a steep area where they are all forced to tie themselves together with ropes for security. Aigin unties himself and flees, leading the Chudes over a cliff where several of them fall to their deaths after the remaining Chudes cut the ropes to save themselves. The few surviving Chudes give up the pursuit and Aigin has effectively saved his people. He becomes the new Pathfinder (shaman-leader) of the Sami group by virtue of his wisdom and bravery.

Most of the scenes were shot in Finnmarksvidda, in temperatures as low as - 47°C. This presented unique difficulties with the cast, crew, and camera equipment in the harsh cold. Most of the cast were Sami, and used to the cold, but several of the stuntmen refused to work under such conditions.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Nick Cave as Maynard the child killer in "Ghosts... of the Civil Dead" (1988)

GHOSTS... OF THE CIVIL DEAD is the story of a modem Maximum Security Prison. It has been extensively researched and is firmly based on actual events that have occurred in prisons in America and Australia in recent years.

"GHOSTS... Of The Civil Dead" is the story of Central Industrial Prison. Central Industrial sits in the middle of a desert. It is the highest level of security the prison system of our mythical country contains.

The film begins at the end. Central Industrial Prison has been "locked down" (meaning that a state of emergency has been declared and all inmates are indefinitely confined to their cells and all privileges have been withdrawn) "following the latest wave of violence that has plagued this institution for years:' A "Committee" has been appointed to report on its causes. The film, like the Committee, flashes back to trace the events that have led to the lockdown.

Three self-contained "housing units" representing the three levels of security in the prison, are the locations for the film. These housing units are triangular in design, are colour-coded in play school yellows and gentle bathroom violets. The inmates wear vivid blue and bright orange uniforms. Officers observe from Observation Booths and Control Rooms. This is a "New Generation" facility -"dedicated to the goal of humane containment:' It is New Generation facilities that are in 1988 being constructed by governments in the western world.

Inmate Wenzil 870411-112. is new to this prison. He is admitted to the supermarket-style, drugged-out 'prison paradise' that is the General Population unit. Within this unit inmates have freedom of movement. They watch a lot of TV, take a lot of drugs, and have a black market in food. sex. tattoos, drugs, electrical goods. They are totally submerged in junk culture. No one cares about the flaunting of the law because it keeps the environment relatively stable and without threat.

Correctional Officer David B. Yale 1633. works in Administrative Segregation. These "high risk" inmates have very limited movement. Inmates are taken once a day. one at a time, for an hour under heavy escort to recreation, and that's it. They sit in their cells the rest of the time and read and write and conspire. There is intelligence in this unit - a sense that these inmates are dangerous for different reasons. They hate the Guards and the Guards hate them; there is no collusion and no co-operation. Just an ever present sense of anger and tension, of war.

Inmate Glover 30281-160. is confined to the punishment unit, to Solitary Confinement. Inmates are sent here to learn to adjust to institutional life. Glover tells his story:

"I was 16 when they put me in prison.Emotionally I'm still 16.Prison is the only world I've ever known.All my dreams are dreams of violence."

Things begin to happen:
Inmates' personal property is destroyed. a cage to exercise is built, a screaming maniacal psycho (Maynard played by Nick Cave) is placed within the Administrative Segregation unit. Yale starts to realise: "It was like the Administration was trying to get something to happen. But I couldn't figure out why:' Yale becomes privy to the plot of deliberately provoking the inmates to create murder.

In General Population, the drug supply and the power to the prison televisions are suddenly and dramatically cut off. This former prison paradise gets nasty. Wenzil. who has had his eagerness to carve a niche in the prisoner hierarchy thoroughly exploited, sits alone in his cell. humbled. stewing, becoming progressively uglier and more hateful. We watch him turn into a killer.

In Administrative Segregation inmates kill an officer after prolonged harassment, in General Population they kill each other over drugs and TV.

"They wanted unfavourable publicity.They didn't care who got killed.They were fucking with everyone."

Yale is suspended from active duty for "spreading rumours:' A formerly docile inmate attacks and murders an Officer. Officers, under threat of their lives and believing their authority has been undermined. hang an inmate. Wenzil kills the first target he can find - the prison 'queen; Lilly. The prison is placed on lockdown status. The Television comes to report the 'facts'.

The film is about the fact that prison further criminalises its inhabitants. It is about the way in which the system. upon which our society is based. has the capacity to exploit events that should be an indictment of it. Further. it is about the fact that our system now deliberately creates those events in order to exploit them.

The Committee appointed to report. dismissing the evidence of former officer Yale, recommends that a new "super maximum" security prison immediately begin construction. A corridor painted pastel blue. We think that we are still within the walls of our modern prison, but we are not. This is the "free world" The free world looks like a prison and the prison world looks like a modern shopping complex. In the free world is Wenzil. Wenzil, known killer, has been released to fail.

G.O.T.C.D. is ultimately about methods of social control: Fear; Criminal; Research; Government; Drugs; Guards; Police; Military; Media. It is about the organisation of our society.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (BBC) Nr. 1

Having watched the BBC TV series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when I was twelve and loved it, I just showed episode one to my son, and he says "very good":

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Conference on Colonialism and Urban Education

Organized by the Association of Raza Educators, the conference focused on “issues of social justice as they related to the question on the role of teachers and students in developing a decolonial education inside and outside the classroom. One of the conference main goals is to establish a Teachers of Color Congress organized against state violence in our schools and communities.”

Speakers at the conference included Dr. Carlos Tejeda, California State University; Ernesto Bustillos, Union del Barrio; Mzuri Pambeli, All African People’s Revolutionary Party; and Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, California State University.

A number of workshops were also held during the conference, covering topics like: Doing Liberatory Pedagogy in the Lower Grades, Challenging State imposed Curricula; Decolonizing Pedagogy; Youth Organizing and Leadership; Decolonizing Research, Tools for Black and Raza Youth Liberation; and Indigenous Education and Self Determination.

(via Intercontinental Cry)