Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Angry Brigade: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Britain's First Urban Guerilla Group (1972)

Between 1970 and 1972 the Angry Brigade used guns and bombs in a series of symbolic attacks against property. A series of communiqués accompanied the actions, explaining the choice of targets and the Angry Brigade philosophy: autonomous organization and attacks on property alongside other forms of militant working class action. Targets included the embassies of repressive regimes, police stations and army barracks, boutiques and factories, government departments and the homes of Cabinet ministers, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. These attacks on the homes of senior political figures increased the pressure for results and brought an avalanche of police raids. From the start the police were faced with the difficulty of getting to grips with a section of society they found totally alien. And were they facing an organization—or an idea?

This documentary, produced by Gordon Carr for the BBC (and first shown in January 1973, shortly after the trial), covers the roots of the Angry Brigade in the revolutionary ferment of the 1960s, and follows their campaign and the police investigation to its culmination in the "Stoke Newington 8" conspiracy trial at the Old Bailey—the longest criminal trial in British legal history. Produced after extensive research—among both the libertarian opposition and the police—it remains the essential study of Britain's first urban guerilla group.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

The Capitalist Realism of Black Mirror

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror offers dystopian visions of post-capitalist futures. This video examines Fifteen Million Merits and Nosedive, considers just how they fit within a Capitalist Realist framework, and determines just how these programs might give us a glimpse of post-capitalist societies.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Four Corners - The Ice Age Documentary (2006)

Sydney, Australia in the early 2000s and the streets are awash with Ice or methamphetamine. Many thousands of people are taking it, some losing everything to it. Many lose a lot. It is an unforgiving substance that can destroy you while you feel like you are on top of the world, as long as the supply continues. As you gradually destroy your mental and physical health.

Burning Man 2018 Film: "Ignite"

Burning Man is more than a party. See why people call it home. Dive into a rabbit hole of fire and dust with one of the most captivating events in the world: Burning Man. Ignite is a documentary short film captured at the annual social experiment in Black Rock City, Nevada. Filmed during the 2017 event Radical Ritual, Ignite is directed and produced by filmmaker Ryan Moore featuring original score produced by the Grammy Award winning team behind "Mission Impossible: Fallout", "The Dark Knight" and "Inception". A cinematic experience into Burning Man, Ignite pays tribute to the community that builds this temporary desert world once each year. Short film 4K video.

Director/Producer: Ryan Moore ("Manny narrated by Liam Neeson")
Score Producer: Lorne Balfe (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Dark Knight, The Crown, Genius)
Composers: Max Aruj and Steffen Thum (Mission Impossible: Fallout)
Directors of Photography: Jez Thierry and Neil Fernandez
Editors: Christian May, Gretchen Schroeder, Ryan Moore
Sound Design Mixer: Emmy Award winner Eddie Kim (Sonic Highways)
Opening Sequence Illustrator: Anthony Francisco (Marvel Studios)

Ignite is also dedicated to Larry Harvey, co-founder of Burning Man.
For more information visit

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Reilly: Ace of Spies

"Power is power it is the one element of the human condition you cannot fake." 
- Stalin, played by David Burke in Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983)

Sidney Reilly was born Zigmund Markovich Rozenblum (Rosenblum) on 24 March 1874 in Odessa. This is not for certain. By 1903 he was working for the British Secret Service in the ferment that was Europe before the First World War.

According to reports of the Okhrana, the tsarist political police, whose archives are preserved at the Hoover Institute, the young Rosenblum was arrested in 1892 for political activities and for being a courier for a revolutionary group known as the Friends of Enlightenment. Evidence indicates that the arrival of Rosenblum in London in December 1895 was from France, and was prompted by his unscrupulous acquisition of a large sum of money in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, a residential suburb of Paris, necessitating a hasty flight. According to this account, Rosenblum and Yan Voitek, a Polish accomplice, had waylaid two Italian anarchists on 25 December 1895 and robbed them of a substantial amount of revolutionary funds. One anarchist's throat was cut; the other, Constant Della Cassa, died from knife wounds in Fontainebleau Hospital three days later.

Regardless of whether the peripatetic Rosenblum arrived in Britain via Brazil or France, he resided at the Albert Mansions, an apartment block in Rosetta Street, Waterloo, London, in early 1896. Now comfortably settled in Britain, Rosenblum created the Ozone Preparations Company, which peddled patent medicines. Because of his knowledge of languages, he had become a paid informant for the émigré intelligence network of William Melville, superintendent of Scotland Yard's Special Branch, whom official sources identify as later overseeing a Special Section of the British Secret Service Bureau founded in 1909.

In 1897 Rosenblum began a torrid affair with Margaret Thomas (née Callaghan), the youthful wife of Reverend Hugh Thomas, shortly before the latter's death. Rosenblum first met Thomas in London via his Ozone Preparations Company. Thomas had a kidney inflammation and was intrigued by the miracle cures peddled by Rosenblum. Thomas introduced Rosenblum to his young wife at his manor house, and over the next six months, they began having an affair. On 4 March 1898, Thomas altered his will and appointed Margaret as an executrix. A week after the new will was made, Thomas and his nurse arrived at Newhaven Harbour Station. On 12 March 1898, Thomas was found dead in his hotel room.[44] A mysterious Dr. T. W. Andrew, whose physical description matched that of Rosenblum, appeared to certify Thomas's death as generic influenza and after signing the relevant documents proclaimed that there was no need for an inquest.

Records indicate that there was no one by the name of Dr. T. W. Andrew in Great Britain circa 1897.Margaret insisted that her husband's body be ready for burial 36 hours after his death. She inherited roughly £800,000. The Metropolitan Police did not investigate Dr. T. W. Andrew, nor did they investigate the nurse whom Margaret had hired, who was previously linked to the arsenic poisoning of a former employer. Four months later, on 22 August 1898, Rosenblum married Margaret Thomas at the Holborn Registry Office in London. The two witnesses at the ceremony were Charles Richard Cross, a government official, and Joseph Bell, an Admiralty clerk. Both would eventually marry daughters of Henry Freeman Pannett, an associate of William Melville. The marriage not only brought the wealth which Rosenblum desired but provided a pretext to discard his identity of Sigmund Rosenblum; with Melville's assistance, he crafted a new identity: "Sidney George Reilly." This new identity was key to achieving his desire to return to the Russian Empire and voyage to the Far East. It must be noted that Reilly "obtained his new identity and nationality without taking any legal steps to change his name and without making an official application for British citizenship, all of which suggests some type of official intervention" on his behalf.

It is from here the 1983 Thames Television series takes up the life of Reilly, Rosemblum.

In June 1899, the newly endowed Sidney Reilly and his wife Margaret traveled to Emperor Nicholas II's Russian Empire using Reilly's (forged) British passport—a travel document and a cover identity both purportedly created by William Melville. While in St. Petersburg, he was approached by Japanese General Akashi Motojiro (1864-1919) to work for the Japanese Secret Intelligence Services. A keen judge of character, Motojiro believed the most reliable spies were those who were motivated by profit instead of by feelings of sympathy towards Japan and, accordingly, he believed Reilly to be such a person. As tensions between Russia and Japan were escalating towards war, Motojiro had at his disposal a budget of one million yen provided by the Japanese Ministry of War to obtain information on the movements of Russian troops and naval developments. Motojiro instructed Reilly to offer financial aid to Russian revolutionaries in exchange for information about the Russian Intelligence Services and, more importantly, to determine the strength of the Russian armed forces particularly in the Far East. Accepting Motojiro's recruitment overtures, Reilly now became simultaneously an agent for both the British War Office and the Japanese Empire. While his wife Margaret remained in St. Petersburg, Reilly allegedly reconnoitered the Caucasus for its oil deposits and compiled a resource prospectus as part of "The Great Game." He reported his findings to the British Government which paid him for the assignment.

More on Reilly's life can be found here, or by watching the TV series, the first episode of which is above. Reilly was no doubt a thug, a liar, an egotist and opportunist. But he always dressed well and was polite to the ladies.