Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dispatches: Undercover in Tibet

Apr 4, 2008 - As Tibetan protesters take to the streets in the biggest and most bloody challenge to Chinese rule in nearly 20 years, Dispatches reports on the hidden reality of life under Chinese occupation after spending three months undercover, deep inside the region. Dozens are feared dead after the recent clashes and crackdown by Chinese troops, but with reporting so rigidly controlled from the region little is known of living conditions inside Tibet. To make this film, Tibetan exile Tash Despa returns to the homeland he risked his life to escape 11 years ago, to carry out secret filming with award-winning, Bafta-nominated director Jezza Neumann (Dispatches Special: China’s Stolen Children).

Risking imprisonment and deportation, he uncovers evidence of the “cultural genocide” described by the Dalai Lama. He finds the nomadic way of life being forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land and livestock and are being resettled in concrete camps. Tibet reveals the regime of terror which dominates daily life and makes freedom of expression impossible. Tash meets victims of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and “disappearances” and uncovers evidence of enforced sterilisations on ethnic Tibetan women. He sees for himself the impact of the enormous military and police presence in the region, and the hunger and hardship being endured by many Tibetans, and hears warnings of the uprising taking place across the provinces now

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Age Travellers

I wrote about New Age Traveller for my third term undergrad project. This is a documentary from the BBC program Time Shift on New Age Travellers:

Travellers have roamed Britain for centuries and New Age Travellers have adopted many Gypsy traditions in an attempt to become genuine nomads themselves. Challenging mainstream society has been central to their motivation, Inevitably this has brought them into conflict with landowners and the police.

Fergus Colville's Time Shift documentary takes a fresh look; following the story from the early 1970s search for an alternative way of life, to the present day, where legislation and increasing fragmentation have eroded both the appeal and viability of being a New Age Traveller.

We managed to get some unique and previously unscreened archive of the Stonehenge festivals which helps to give a different perspective on the news reporting of the time.

The program seems to echo many of the points I raised in my essay from 2003.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Australian Garage Punk 101

A few videos from the best from Australian garage scene. It actually had an influence on the later Seattle story with Sub Pop and so on.

Radio Birdman's performing the classic 'New Race'(later appearing on the 1978 album 'Radio Appears'), live at the Paddington Town Hall on the 3rd of April 1977.

The Saints' promo-video for the classic 'Know Your Product' taken from the 1978 album 'Eternally Yours'.

The Birthday Party: Nick the Stripper (1981)
Above the barely-controlled racket, Cave's vocals ranged from desperate to simply menacing and demented. Critics have written that "neither John Cale nor Alfred Hitchcock was ever this scary.", and that Cave "doesn't so much sing his vocals as expel them from his gut". Though Cave drew on earlier rock and roll shriekers; especially Iggy Pop and Suicide's Alan Vega, his singing with the Birthday Party remains powerful and distinct.

The Scientists: We Had Love (Live 2007, but released in 1983)

Beasts Of Bourbon - Psycho

The Beasts of Bourbon. Psycho (1984)

Lubricated Goat: In the Raw (1988)

The Lime Spiders. Slave Girl (1984)
'I sleep on the floor and dry my hair by hanging it out the car window' hair. The look of the day was a paisley shirt, black stovepipe trousers (holes optional), and pointy boots (holes optional). AHHH the days of my youth.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What Would Jesus Buy?

An examination of the commercialization of Christmas in America while following Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse (the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt.) The film also delves into issues such as the role sweatshops play in America’s mass consumerism and Big-Box Culture. From the humble beginnings of preaching at his portable pulpit on New York City subways, to having a congregation of thousands – Bill Talen (aka Rev. Billy) has become the leader of not just a church, but a national movement.

What is the Story of Stuff? - Similar videos can be found at From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Racism: A History: Eugenics


In response to the criticisms of T Scott from Andover and Dr J Owen from London concerning the passage on eugenics which appears in the second episode of Racism: A History, we would like to point out that this section was based on information drawn from a number of authoritative sources. As well as numerous conversations with eminent academics and researchers, this film relied on several acclaimed books by distinguished authors, including Michael Burleigh's award-winning The Third Reich: A New History; Harry Bruinius' Better For All The World; and most importantly, of course, the works of Francis Galton himself.

Mr Scott's suggestion that "eugenics was not about racism" and Dr Owen's assertion that it had been a 'valid' field of study that was later "brought into disrepute" by the Nazis are interesting interpretations of eugenics' chequered history. Unfortunately, though, these assertions are not supported by the facts. Questions of race were a crucial aspect of eugenic thought right from the start. The pioneering eugenicist Francis Galton might have been a gifted statistician, as Dr Owen says, but it remains the case that he made a significant contribution to the development of racist ideas in the Victorian era. In a chapter entitled The Comparative Worth of Different Races, which appears in his most famous work, Heredity Genius (1869), Galton makes several references to the relative superiority of Europeans compared to what he called 'the lower races'. After insisting that "the number among the Negroes of those whom we should call half-witted men, is very large", Galton went on to say that the behaviour of 'Negroes' was "so childish, stupid, and simpleton-like, as frequently to make me ashamed of my own species".

In the preface to the 1892 edition of same work, Galton also considers the impact of the new European empires being established in Africa. Once the Europeans "enforce justice and order", he wonders whether "the Negroes, one and all, will fail as completely under the new conditions as they have failed under the old ones, to submit to the needs of a superior civilization to their own; in this case their races, numerous and prolific as they are, will in the course of time be supplanted and replaced by their betters." Taken together with his description of "the uncorrected sense of moral perspective" and "impulsive, unstable nature" of "savages", Galton's writings supply abundant evidence to suggest that - decades before eugenics was "brought into disrepute" by the Nazis - the founding father of eugenics was already advancing positions that sit firmly in what some might call 'the exterminatory wing' of late Victorian racial science.

As Dr Owen quite rightly observes, eugenics drew support from many 'liberal', 'progressive', and indeed 'socialist' figures, including George Bernard Shaw, HG Wells, Harold Laski and the Webbs. Nowhere in our film is it claimed that these eminent 'liberal' Victorians were 'proto-Nazis'. But it is clear that many prominent figures within the British 'liberal' intelligentsia explicitly supported ideas of racial purity - notions that were promoted by the leading eugenicists of the time. Just like Charles Dickens, who supported Governor Eyre's murderous response to the protest at Morant Bay in 1865, many prominent 'liberal', 'progressive' and 'left-leaning' members of Europe's intellectual elite have embraced and supported racism. Hence, the 'socialist' HG Wells - an enthusiastic champion of eugenics - could warn of the menace of the "ill-trained swarms of inferior people", and suggest that it was "sane and logical" to exterminate members of an 'inferior race'.

For reasons of space, the film did not offer evidence that Winston Churchill was a supporter of eugenics - but there's no doubt that Churchill was wholly committed to the cause. In 1910, Churchill wrote to the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to express his support for a Bill that proposed the introduction of compulsory sterilisation for the 'feeble-minded' in Britain. Two years later, Churchill attended the First International Eugenics Congress in London and even agreed to become its Vice-Chairman.

Further, our film did not intend to make sweeping claims about the impact of Social Darwinism on British Social Policy in general. Rather, we simply suggested that these ideas influenced the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, during the time of the great Indian famines in the last quarter of the 19th century. In the book Late Victorian Holocausts, the historian Mike Davis writes: "The grim doctrines of Thomas Malthus... still held great sway over the white rajas. Although it was bad manners to openly air such opinions in front of the natives in Calcutta, Malthusian principles, updated by Social Darwinism, were regularly invoked to legitimise Indian famine policy at home in England".

It was Lytton's administration that imposed The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877, which prohibited private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market-fixing of grain prices. In effect, this legislation meant that any individuals wishing to make charitable donations to save the lives of starving Indians were threatened with imprisonment. By this time, official relief centres had already turned away famished people if they were too weak to work for their meagre rations. Under Lytton's rule, survival really was the sole preserve of the fittest.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Soylent Green

Soylent Green is a 1973 dystopian science fiction movie depicting a bleak future in which overpopulation, global warming, and the resulting severe damage to the environment have led to widespread unemployment and poverty. Real fruit, vegetables, and meat are rare, expensive commodities, and much of the population survives on processed food rations, including "soylent green" wafers.
The film overlays the genres of science fiction and the police procedural as it depicts the efforts of New York City police detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) and elderly police researcher Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson) to investigate the brutal murder of a wealthy businessman named William R. Simonson (Joseph Cotten). Thorn and Roth uncover clues which suggest that it is more than simply a bungled burglary.
The film, which is loosely based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison, won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1973.
Food as we know it today–including fruit, vegetables, and meat–is a rare and expensive commodity. Half of the world's population survives on processed rations produced by the massive Soylent Corporation (from soy(bean) + lent(il)), including Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, which are advertised as "high-energy vegetable concentrates". The newest product is Soylent Green - a small green wafer which is advertised as being produced from "high-energy plankton". It is much more nutritious and palatable than the red and yellow varieties, but it is in short supply, which often leads to riots.
Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) is a New York City police detective who lives in a dilapidated, cramped one-room apartment with his aged partner Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson). Roth is a former professor who searches through the now-disordered remnants of written records and books to help Thorn's investigations. Roth and his ilk are euphemistically known as "books". He tells Thorn about the times before the ecological disaster and population crisis, when real food was plentiful. (wikipedia)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ira Cohen: Kings with Straw Mats

Ira Cohen (February 3, 1935 – April 25, 2011) was an American poet, publisher, photographer and filmmaker born in New York City to deaf parents. During the 1960s, he traveled to Tangier, where he published the exorcism magazine GNAOUA. He also published The Hashish Cookbook under the name of Panama Rose. He continued to travel until 1980, when he returned to New York City, where he resided until his death in 2011. In his loft on the Lower East Side, Cohen created the "mylar images", future icons developed by a "mythographer". Among the reflected artists in his mirror: John McLaughlin, William Burroughs and Jimi Hendrix, who said that looking at these photos was like looking through butterfly wings. Timothy Baum, noted expert in Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, said that these images were jewels and should be shown at Tiffany's. With this shamanic and tantric exercise Cohen explored the whole spectrum of photography from infrared to black light.

In 1968 Cohen also directed the "phantasmaglorical" film Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and produced Paradise Now, a film of the Living Theatre's historic American tour. Invasion Of Thunderbolt Pagoda was inspired by the films of Kenneth Anger and Sergei Parajanov and began as an extension of his photography work with his He went to the Himalayas in the '70s where he started the starstream poetry series under the Bardo matrix imprint in Kathmandu, publishing the work of Charles Henri Ford, Gregory Corso, Paul Bowles and Angus Maclise; and developing his art of bookmaking, working with native craftsmen. In 1972 he spent a year in San Francisco reading and performing and then returned to New York mounting photographic shows.

During the 1980s Cohen made trips to Ethiopia, Japan, and back to India where he documented on video the great kumbh mela festival, the largest spiritual gathering on the planet. In the latter part of the decade Synergetic Press (London) published On Feet of Gold, a book of selected poems. He was also a contributing editor of Third Rail magazine, a review of international arts and literature based in Los Angeles.

Ira Cohen saw his poems published during the 1990s in England by Temple Press under the title Ratio 3: Media Shamans Along with Two Good Poet Friends, Gerard Malanga (of Wahol's Factory) and Angus Maclise. He had a show called Retrospectacle at the October Gallery in London and he also took part along with William Burroughs, Terry Wilson and Hakim Bey at a Here To Go Show in Dublin. In 1994 Sub Rosa records released his first CD, The Majoon Traveller, with dj Cheb i Sabbah, which also included the work of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman.

Cohen died of renal failure on April 25, 2011.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Nobodies from the Rainforest (Anonimato)

Nobodies from the Rainforest (Anonimato) is a short documentary about the Hupda indigenous People from Alto Rio Negro, northwest Amazon (Brazil).

Produced last year by Orlando Lemos, the film reveals a precarious health situation among the Hupda — one that’s been caused by outsider contact and a lack of access to clean water — as they struggle day to day with little resources, assistance, or even hope.

As for the health problem, the film primarily looks at Trachoma, which is a leading cause of infectious blindness in the world (8 million people, mostly in so-called developing countries, are visually impaired every year by Trachoma). There are however, numerous other health problems facing the Hupda.

Underlying this “modern life” is a story of one Hupda Woman, Lucia, who, mistakenly stepped on a poisonous snake after going almost blind from Trachoma.

After being bitten, Lucia wasn’t sure what to do, so she hid away. With her leg untreated though, it got infected and eventually developed into a necrosis. Lucia knew that if she went to a hospital the Doctors would want to take her leg away. She could not accept this.

Eventually however, she was sent to a city hospital. With her husband at her side, the doctors told her what she already knew. She escaped before they had the chance to take her leg.

After returning home, she was encouraged to see a western doctor working in the region. The doctor asked for the help of a traditional medicine man—and together they cured the necrosis without having to remove her leg.

Throughout all this, Lucia lost touch with her husband, who she lost touch with after she ran from the hospital. For months she thought the worst, that she would never again see the love her life.

Fortunately, it turned out he just got lost in the city. Lucia and her husband are together again, reminding them — and now even us, that even in the worst of situations, good things still happen. We just have to trust our hearts, take care of ourselves, and never ever give up.

The Hupda people live in the region bordered by the rivers Tiquié and Papuri, tributaries joining the left hand bank of the river Uaupes in the Upper Rio Negro region of the state of Amazonas in Brazil and the departament of Vaupes in Colombia. They are known as being part of the Maku linguistic family and have been in contact with the frontiers of colonization since the 18th century; there are records of countless epidemics of measles, smallpox and influenza which decimated the population. Currently they are distributed in approximately 35 villages (local groups) estimated at a total of 1500 individuals. The Hupda villages are, in general, close to areas of Tukano, Tariano, Tuyuka and Piratapuia population, populations which speak languages of the Tukano linguistic family, living nears the banks of the streams and rivers which make up the hydrographic basin of the Uaupes river.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Luis Bunuel

Last night I watched Luis Bunuel's The Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie from 1972. I had seen it many years ago and remember I enjoyed it very much. Last night I remembered why. Bunuel brilliantly deconstructs bourgeois pretensions using metaphorical and ironic imagery that render this a brilliant surrealist film and a powerful political commentary. Today it is as relevant as it must have been in 1972. The police, the church, state and corporate power are dissected with poetic metaphors which leaves them bare, devoid of power and venerable to critique. The Bishop who becomes a gardener to a corrupt drug dealer, the ambassador who believes his own national propaganda and is stalked by the beautiful terrorist with fluffy toys, the police who torture people by shutting them in piano's full of cockroaches, the dinner party that never happens but is always about to, the group from dinner party walking down the rural highway never arriving. Dreams, audio over dialogue (planes taking off, traffic, typewriters), food, clothing, time, drugs, death, cars, and dinners are layered in a complex kaleidoscope the both pulls apart rationalist constructions of time and the evil emptiness at the heart of the bourgeois condition.

'Cinéastes de notre temps' (April 4, 1964). Focuses on Luis Buñuel, surrealist filmmaker, his exile and his early career.