23 December 2008


I think I am the only person I know who is excited about this movie.

It's about a conspiracy to do something good, which is pretty rare I think. I can't think of any others. Tom Cruise wears an I patch. I don't really care to find out whether that is based on history or not. I've been called "Tom Cruise" by black kids in Brooklyn on two occasions. I don't think I look like him, so I think they're trying to say something else. Also, the whole movie is in English, which seems really weird, but I guess it's for Americans. What is that called? Authenticity?

Here's a picture a took on my new cell phone that has a camera in it while driving out of New York today:

I doubt that I will actually see Valkyrie in theatres, or write a follow up to this, but you never know. If you click on the image to enlarge it you will see the sentence that contains the word "conspiracy" which precipitated this post.

16 December 2008

Ockham's Razor

"Entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate."

I found this the other night, which attempts to define the concept behind "Occam's Razor." It's a fairly good description of the concept, if glorified. ("And yet it is, of course, probably the most important principle ever introduced into human logic.") But it made me realize that I have never explained Occam's Razor or it's relationship to this blog. I did some research which is actually pretty interesting.

Occam's Razor (you could probably just read the blog entry or this to understand it but whatever) is basically the premise that given a theory or set of theories, human logic will lead one to trust the theory which requires the fewest assumptions. An easy, but inaccurate, way to say this is that the simplest theory is always true. The simplest theory may usually true because it makes the fewest assumptions, but if one of those assumptions is outrageous, one would have to trust a more complex theory. The weird thing about Occam's Razor is that it's pure philosophy; it will never prove anything concretely.

For example (one that's a bit more specific to my blog than the examples in the link), I'll use the JFK conspiracy. There are basically two theories, though the conspiracy theory popularized by Oliver Stone's movie etc. can have a lot of different nuances. One is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating JFK. The other is that Oswald was a patsy (as he referred to himself in a press conference) for a massive conspiracy that went all the way up to Lyndon Johnson. So if you apply Occam's razor, you have to look at the assumptions that each theory takes to determine which is more probable. One assumption you have to accept for the lone gunman theory is that Oswald was a capable enough marksman to hit Kennedy from the sixth floor of the book depository with 6.5 millimeter Italian carbine rifle and four-power scope. This is hard to believe, but impossible to finitely falsify. For the conspiracy theory, you have to assume that Jack Ruby was hired by the conspirators to kill Oswald in order to keep him quiet. As a possiblity, this is sort of easy to believe, especially considering that the motive Ruby gave was that he wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy from having to testify. But it's difficult to prove. It's also difficult to falsify. But both are just one of many assumptions that both theories require, though the conspiracy theory would probably have many more assumptions.

Okay, long-winded example.

After the jump I want to do a quick summary of the history of the principle, and then I'll explain wtf it has to do with this blog.

The principle is attributed to William of Ockham, a 14th century logician. Some people claim that a bunch of other people invented it, including Thomas Aquinus (my bff) and even Plato (or was it Aristotle). He was a controversial figure with the Catholic church because he basically denied the immortality of the soul and the existence of God. Both require a lot of assumptions. He was an important contributor to the philosophy of Nominalism, to which he contributed his theory of universals, which was that they don't exist. Basically the original skeptic. In some cases he was a little to skeptical, like he denied the comlexity of human biology. But in other cases he was pretty awesome, ie he was one of the first people to advocate the seperation of Church and State.

What's also funny is that there's writing on the "Myth of Ockham's Razor" which denies that he came up with the concept of that it has attributed to him by later scholars. And that it's not really important. That paper is actually really dense, so I don't reccomend reading it, I didn't get very far.

Applying Occam's Razor to conspiracy theories in the literal sense is not really what I'm interested in doing with this blog, so the title is a bit inaccurate. What I'm interested is the narrative form that conspiracy thoeries use. But the principle is important, because it gets to the heart of what is fascinating about conspiracies, which is that they can't be proved, but present a set of assumptions which can be more believable that the theory accepted as status quo. Granted, conspiracies are exploitative, they take advantage of people's natural fears and insecurities to convince us that there are powers in the world greater than what we see in our everday lives. If Ockham were alive today he would undoubtedly scoff at most conpiracies, some of which take on an almost religious role in our lives, requiring belief and even faith in certain ideals, mainly "the truth", in order believe things we would otherwise write off immediately.

I am obsessed with fiction, and I see conspiracies as a sort of counterpoint to fiction. I'm not going to be able to express this very well at this point in my life (maybe one day I'll write a dissertation (which would have to come after my Roth dissertation)), but I think the idea is apparent. Conspiracies are basically fictions that are applied to the real world. It's not a lot different from history and the news, which often contain elements of fiction, but it's much easier to see the fiction and narrative making behind it.

A funny example of a conspiracy that fictionalizes reality is the World War Crew, from Richmond Virginia. I don't know them personally, but my sister dated on of them, and I've been close to people who do know them, so I sort of know what their deal is. Basically, they're a bunch of teenagers who live in Richmond and graffiti things and do random pranks. But the police decided that they were a gang, and actually went the kid's houses and confiscated their computers and suspected them of being much more criminal than they actually were. I heard they had a whole task force dedicated to the World War Crew, which is pretty hilarious considering that Richmond has one of the highest crime rates in American for a city of its size, and the police were focusing their energies on a bunch of kids in a hard core band.

01 December 2008

The Plot Against America

Apparently I haven't written anything on here since September. There are still some conspiracies that I want to talk about, but I've been working on this one 911 documentary that is pretty subpar, so I've had difficulty coming up with anything to say about it.

I did read this awesome Philip Roth book recently. It's not entirely relevant, but the plot does involve a couple conspiracy theories, which was cool.

The Plot Against America is kind of crazy book when you consider it in Roth's oeuvre. His work started as thinly veiled autobiography, and then moved to quite overt autobiography, that toyed with the reader's ability to interpret the autobiographical cues. Then he wrote a book called The Facts, which is supposed to be an autobiography, but contains letters to Roth from fictional characters. Operation Shylock took it a step further by placing Roth as a character in the middle of the Israeli conflict, and fucking a little bit with actual events. The Plot Against America goes even farther by reinventing a significant period of American history in order to tell a fictional version of Roth's childhood, again with Philip Roth as the main character.

That subject could possibly be the subject of a dissertation that I will write in like a million years, but I'll quickly focus on the conspiracy aspects of the book.

So the basic premise of the book is that Charles Lindbergh, who was known in real life as a Nazi sympathizer, defeats FDR in the 1940 election on an anti-war platform (in reality Lindbergh was pushed to run, but didn't want to enter politics), at which point he signs a deal with Hitler and begins a veiled anti-Semitic Americanization program for minorities.

In the book, Philip Roth (who is eight at the time) is related to a famous Rabbi Bengelsdorf (not a real person) from Newark, who back Lindbergh and gets a position in his cabinet. As the novel reaches it's climax, Roth's Aunt Evelyn returns to Newark, and has to hide in the Roth's basement, because she fears that the government is after her, but Roth's parents won't let her in. The young Philip is the only one who knows of her hideout, and brings her food.

At this point there are two opposing conspiracy theories. One is that the Third Reich was responsible for the kidnapping of Lindbergh's son in 1932 (based on actual events) and used Charles Jr as leverage against Lindbergh, who they helped get into office and then used to set policy in America allowing them to conquer Europe before eventually taking over the United States as well. The second theory is that Bengelsdorf is a modern day Rasputin, who has mesmerized Lindbergh and controls him as part of an international Jewish conspiracy to rule the world.

The Bengelsdorf conspiracy echoes the New World Order conspiracy that you will find in more reactionary conspiracy media, which goes back to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other absurdities of anti-Semitism.

The conspiracy involving Lindbergh's son is kind of cool, if totally implausible.

Neither of the theories are meant to hold any water in the book, and actually have little effect on the plot, but reflect the hysteria and paranoia that accompanies periods of political unrest. I think Roth captures the conpiracy theorists reasoning quite precisely.

21 September 2008

15 September 2008

Not Conspiracy Theorists

On the train last night I sat across from these two guys, both old and very dumpy, wearing worn out sweat pants and polo shirts, like they have been sitting alone in their apartments listening to the radio for like 30 years, talking about 9/11 and at first I thought one was convincing the other that the World Trade Center towers had been brought down by bombs from the inside, but when I continued listening I realized that he was actually refuting that popular theory, saying he has a video that he wants to show the guy where you can clearly see that there were no such bombs. It was odd, because the guys definitely looked like the type to be conspiracy theorists, and perhaps they were but didn't believe this particular theory. The first time I've ever overheard that controversy being casually discussed.

25 August 2008


Last week, the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology released a 77-page report on the collapse of the World Trade Center Building 7, which you can read here. As you might imagine the report is pretty boring, but some of the language used is pretty interesting. There is a pretty subjective "reconstruction" of the events that lead to the collapse on 9/11, and some different explanations for why certain scenarios are more likely that others, blah blah blah. But what's interesting is to compare they're language with the language used by the New York Daily News story that covers the report. The NIST report, which took three years to write, explains its purpose as an attempt to understand the safety problems that caused the building to collapse, without acknowledging the importance of an official report to quell any conspiracy theories about 9/11. The Daily News makes the implicit assumption that the reports only purpose is to debunk any theories, as we can tell from the headline, "Fire - not explosives - brought 7 WTC down."

9/11 conspiracy theorists believe that the official explanation that fires caused structural damage that ultimately led to the collapse of all three WTC buildings is physically impossible. In all of the 9/11 videos and media, you will hear pseudo-scientific explanations of why this is so, using evidence like "no building in history has collapsed because of fire damage" and videos of controlled demolitions which closely resemble the building 7 collapse. This is part of the narrative strategy of conspiracy theories, using "evidence" that may have no basis in reality, but reporting as though it is absolute truth. It works because conspiracy theorists are by definition not mainstream and not expected to work within guidelines that a institution like the NIST must. The discrepancy creates an interesting dialog, where the officials generally don't bother to acknowledge the conspiracy theories, while conspiracies don't really attack the official story or actual evidence in a credible way. The only link between the two are media sources like the New York Daily News that are able to create a more interesting story by juxtaposing the two.

As of right now there are 43 comments on the Daily News story, which create kind of a hilarious dialog between people who believe the conspiracy and others who vehemently oppose it. It's hard for me to imagine the people behind these comments, but I suppose they could really be anyone. You would assume a lot of college students and maybe some precocious high schoolers, but for all I know my parents are secretly posting comments written in all caps on news stories in the spare time.

More on Anthrax Conspiracy

My favorite blog.
just kidding.

07 August 2008

Anthrax Conspiracy

Crazy story in the New York Times yesterday: A scientist named Bruce Ivins, suspected of sending the anthrax letters which killed five people and injured a bunch of other ones a week after 9/11 in 2001, committed suicide by taking a massive dose of pain killers. Government investigators are now claiming that the case is shut and that Ivins was the perpetrator. Now if you think like a conspiracy theorist this seems a little too convenient. The FBI is claiming that Ivins acted alone. But there is some contention on that issue (as well as plenty of contention that Ivins did it at all as most of the evidence is circumstantial and there are some holes in the Feds' story). To me this is an important distinction. If it was just Ivins than most likely he's just a crazy dude, but if there were other people involved that points to a conspiracy within the government. The Times piece is really fascinating, but you need a subscription to read it, but here's a clip of Keith Olberman explaining what happened:

We've known for a while that the anthrax used in the attacks originated from US government labs, though President Bush and others originally speculated it came from Iraq--keep in mind this is a week after 9/11, well before Bush and others started making a case for the war in Iraq. Here's a pretty boring anthrax conspiracy clip as well:

06 August 2008

Astronaut Buzz

It's kind of sad that the only times I've paid attention to NASA since the Columbia Shuttle exploded in 2003 (which led me to wonder if there were any Columbia Shuttle conspiracies which led me to this gem) is the diaper murderer thing. But recently NASA has made it back into the news in the form of former Astronaut and sixth man on the moon, Edgar Mitchell, and the interview in which he exposes his and NASA's knowledge of extra terrestrials (he even has his own website). The blogs have been buzzing.

Typically I don't care much for extra terrestrial theories, and if you check out the YouTube page for the guy who made the Columbia conspiracy video, you will understand why. Unlike certain 9/11, JFK, New World Order, etc etc, conpiracists, these guys are so crazy that you can't even pretend to take them seriously, and then it's just no fun. But, for those of you who are interested here's a video with the interview.

It has some funny captions and typical extra terrestrial imagery, but is really pretty boring. There's also a recording of the same guys calling NASA, who apparently wasn't aware that this was going on at all. I can't find any official response from NASA, and there's a rumor that the whole thing is a big media hoax, which is pretty funny, but I doubt it, considering how boring this is compared to all the other possible hoaxes out there. It would explain why Mitchell's personal site doesn't have any content about aliens, though there is a bunch of new-agey cosmic weirdness that's kind of funny. Mostly it just seems like he's an old guy who lost his marbles.

Better luck next time.

Conspiracy Theories in cartoons

I was excited to see my favorite online comic make fun of conspiracy theorists. Interesting that Chris Onstad chose the two most unsavory of Achewood characters for the gag.


27 July 2008


I haven't written on anything in more than a month, not having seen any interesting conspiracy theories. But I read this yesterday New Yorker piece on Tang Jie, a young Chinese philosophy student who posted this video on a Chinese site called Sina, where it got over a million hits. The same video on YouTube has only gotten a little over a thousand, but I think it would have little meaning to most Americans. The video is made in the style of Western conspiracy videos, with still images, lofty music and poorly written, vague titles. Unlike your average American conspiracy theorist, however, Jie appears to be a modest, bookish philosophy student with a deep love for his country. He criticizes Western media, implying a conspiracy to present China as a backwards and evil country.

The video itself makes little sense to me, beyond the basic idea. The visuals are hard to understand and the argument is fragmented and far from complete. Apparently Jie made the video because he was sick of seeing so much distorted information about China online, and couldn't find anything that opposed the mainstream perspective. The video itself is relatively innocuous. The only image that really caught my attention is one of the Dalai Lama and George Bush meeting over a swastika, the relevance of which I don't quite understand, though I guess ambiguous imagery is a convention of these videos. It uses a lot of empty rhetoric about the Chinese standing up, the truth leading the people, etc.

Despite the resemblances to video like "Fuck the Corporate Media"--which you can view in my last post--the essential difference of this film is that it sides with the Chinese government. Most conspiracy theories involve the collusion of the media and the government, but 2008! China stand up! only accuses the foreign, and to a lesser extent foreign nations, of a conspiracy against the Chinese. Jie doesn't resemble the traditional conspiracy theorist, and the video has a more earnest tone. It's certainly less mockable than "Fuck the Corporate Media."

It addresses the controversy over the Beijing Olympics, which is a product of the general feeling of China's growing power in the world, and the predicted opposition of the US, and theorizes a new Cold War between the US and China, a compelling if extreme idea. But this is obviously another genre convention, taking the seed of an idea to its most absurd conclusion.

09 July 2008

Fuck the Corporate Media

"Fuck The Corporate Media" analyzes the tactics, both subtle and blatant, employed by the corporate media to control your mind. This video covers just one day in the lies of the corporate media. See for yourself how they sell us out in this startling comparison between what really happened on August 21st, 2003 in Portland, Oregon, and what they say about what happened. Fuck the corporate media!

The problem with videos like this one is that they're criticism is not interesting or well articulated. They try to make corporate media look bad by catching them in lies and distortions, but most of their examples are pretty subjective, like a news anchor changing a word from "backpack" to "equipment" supposedly in order to make protesters sound more like terrorists. My favorite quote from the video is when the narrator, a young woman with a bandanna covering the lower half of her face, says of a reporter in the middle of the protest, "What's really pissing her off right there is that people are saying what they want to say, without being controlled." She relies on an idea, I don't know where she gets it from, that television news is the only source of information available. People say what they want to say all the time, on blogs and news websites and movies and books. If anything network news is becoming more and more obsolete, and while the news they produce is certainly biased, narrowly focused and obnoxious, it's hardly in "control" of anything.

I touched on this in my post on Mailer's The Armies of the Night, but I think this video clearly demonstrates the empty immitation of 60s protest culture. I guess it's just hard for me to believe that "Fuck the Corporate Media" is as urgent a cause as civil rights or the Vietnam War. The claim that this video "analyzes" the techniques of the corporate media to "control your mind" is a bold one. Though it is divided into sections, the video pretty much lacks any structure. It's basically the same imagery and rhetoric for twenty minutes, which, believe me, gets really boring. I guess not everyone has the time to create their own Loose Change, but this isn't much more interesting than a long winded vlog.

Wrayer, who is the YouTube user that posted the video, and I assume might refer to the narrator as well, gets a little emotional at the end, after showing a clip of her accosting a reporter, calling her a liar. She then guiltily admits that the woman is probably a nice lady, and says "I wish I could have been more articulate at the time," before going into a sort of stoner rant about how she just can't control her anger in the face of the media's mind controlling distortions.

03 July 2008

The Truth About HD

So I've always thought that television commercials would eventually become people's primary source of entertainment. They seem to get more and more innovative, self-referential, and narratively complex as other mediums deteriorate in a pathetic attempt to keep up with the demands of the masses. Maybe not. But I think it's cool that this commercial I saw on tv yesterday uses what I consider a conspiracy theory aesthetic.

This other one with the dude is really more of just an action movie thing, like Mission Impossible. The line that really gets me from the first one is, "The truth your cable company doesn't want you to hear."

02 July 2008

Google Conspiracy

I've been waiting for this for a while. A friend of mine who works for the Blogger part of Google wrote about a problem at Blogger which occurred yesterday. A bunch of anti-Obama blogs were flagged as spam blogs, apparently because of a mass email sent out by a network of blogs called Just Say No Deal, which caused all of them to be flagged. One of my blogs was also recently flagged, so I can attest that this can happen without some sort of ulterior motive on the part of Google. This explanation didn't stop many of the flagged bloggers from claiming that Google had purposely shut down their blogs because they are anti-Obama. This is obviously pretty silly, but having a friend on the inside, I have a pretty good idea of how much power the people over at Google have, at least in the blogging world. Google being as ubiquitous as it is, and having as much access as it has to information, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone cooked up a juicy Google conspiracy. Too bad this one was pretty lame.

30 June 2008

The Armies of the Night

Conspiracy is contingent on authority. Without a dominant philosophy, there can't be a subversive one. The authority, often the government or governing body, gives an official account--JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone--and theorists construct a counter narrative.

Reading Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night gave me an interesting perspective on my "conspiracy" project. Mailer was far from a conspiracy theorist, but he was absolutely anti-establishment, and was one of the previous centuries primary inventor of narrative, especially narrative that used political and historical--non-fictional--elements. Mailer was also very famous, which would have made it difficult to be a good conspiracy theorist.

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It's hard for someone of my generation to really understand the impact that The Armies of the Night had. Although I once would have considered myself a political activist, I have never actually attended a protest of anything. The climate of political activism at my alma mater, Wesleyan, when I was there, was a sad imitation of the school's history. Thus it's hard for me to imagine a protest, or any collective activism, as being anything other that vaguely annoying. So when I started reading Mailer's book, I kept thinking, What's the big deal? The author is know for a robust ego, and the few days that he spent in jail, missing some party in Manhattan, hardly seemed like a heroic effort. I interview my father, who was alive during the 60s, after the jump.

So, in order to better understand why Mailer wrote 288 pages on a few days during which seemingly little happened, I called my Dad, in order to understand the time period. At the time of the march on the Pentagon, October 1967, my Dad was still in high school, and a self-described "young republican." He grew up in Akron, Ohio, which I can only imagine was absolutely thumping with bibles. In 1967, four months before the Kent State shooting and almost a year before the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, it was incredibly unpopular to be against the Vietnam war. Later in college my Dad would adopt a liberal anti-war stance, and attended a march in Washington in March of 1970, by which time it was more acceptable and even popular. But in 1967 it was considered unpatriotic.

This reminds me of 2003, when similar rhetoric was used concerning the war in Iraq. I remember being absolutely confused at the overwhelming support for the war by politicians. I was seventeen at the time, and actually thought that Congress wouldn't allow Bush to go into Iraq. Naive I was. Still, when I was talking to my Dad I realized that Vietnam was a completely different thing. I mean obviously, but for some reason I had to hear from him to believe what I had read in Mailer's book. According to my Dad, the reaction of the government authorities to protests was more violent than they would be now, and--though by the time my Dad was involved the demonstrations had become more peaceful--the leaders of the protests also tended toward violence.

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In an earlier post I talked about the movie "Chicago 10" and it's "protagonist," Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman plays a minor role in The Armies of the Night, in that Mailer mentions him being around, along with Jerry Rubin, also in the Chicago Seven. In my criticism of the film, I basically said that Hoffman was unsympathetic as a martyr figure, because he represented white privilege and reckless, hippie, trendster anti-establishmentness. I'm not exactly reversing my judgment on this, but maybe giving him a little more credit.

Mailer, however, is reluctant to make himself a martyr--at least a little bit. His arrest is symbolic and he goes into it planning to be arrested. He doesn't expect to actually go to the Pentagon, and basically forces a young National Guard officer to arrest him, later regretting that spending five days in jail--when he thought it would only be a few hours--would make it seem like too big of a deal.

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Mailer does share with Hoffman an interest self-invention. The formal innovations in The Armies of the Night (History as Novel, The Novel as History) reveal Mailer's approach to writing and political activism as interwoven and inextricable. His next book was a more objective look at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Miami, but The Armies of the Night is as much about Mailer as it is about history. He is both the narrator and the protagonist in the first section of the book, the novel, during which the plot construct is ironic and deliberate. It may be a superficial device, and he may be pointing that out, but the formalism of Mailer's book goes a long way to capture the seriousness of the movement than does Hoffman's absurd theatricality.

09 June 2008

War, Inc.

I associate Hillary Duff with my little sister watching the Disney Channel. So, I was quite surprised when I finally figured out she was playing Yonica Babyyeah, the Britney spears parody in War, Inc. Then I thought, Wait a minute, is is appropriate for a white American teeny-bopper to be playing a middle eastern woman? But I guess part of the vague future that is constructed in the film is an obtuse deracination as a product of globalization. Looking at the cast list there are almost no Arab sounding names, which is my simplistic way of pointing out that they basically just slap vaguely Arabic names on to characters like Omar Sharif, and deal with the race issue that is central to the current war in Iraq by ignoring it. By setting their movie in the future, the makers are basically able to avoid making any serious political statement.

Whether this was a premeditated move to make the film more marketable, this negligence has made an otherwise action packed and thought provoking film come off as lazy and "fun." It has all the style of serious work, but little of the substance. In the end the message is one we've heard a million times, an obvious hyperbole of corporate control, using tropes of conspiracy and distopian works to create an exciting but ultimately unfulfilling forecast of military and corporate collusion. How the plot fails after the jump.

It seems like there are a lot of movies where the male protagonist has to decide between his profession and his love life, and in War, Inc Brand Hauser's (John Cusack) profession is killing people. He tries to escape his past, but it won't let him. This is pretty cliche right? It's too bad, because John Cusack is awesome in this movie. Unfortunately, his whole background is only seen through vague flashback sequences where he fights with his boss, the mysterious Walken (Ben Kingsley) is never satisfyingly explained, so it makes the whole climax of the movie seem like a joke.

The movie also makes this part into a joke. The quadriplegic bad guy tries to kill Cusack's character by running into him with a wheel chair, a hint at this film's penchant for corny humor. Cusack easily side steps his advances, and then pours Tabasco sauce in his eyes. Cusack's character is pretty inauthentic, he's just kind of a medley of badass movie guys, who starts having a conscience.

What's cool about this movie, and makes it worth seeing, is mostly the aesthetics and cinematography, and partly the jokes about capitalism (that sounds lame, I know). But we all love jokes about capitalism, right? It borrows from recent digital media influenced film and media, often looking like a Douglas Coupland project, especially the graphics and satire of corporate branding. Actually the plot is quite Coupland-esque as well, though the characters don't live up to it. It also resembles at times the Truman Show, the climactic scene looking a lot like when Jim Carrey breaks through the moon and confronts the bad guy in that movie. It also borrows from current news media, and basically satirizes all forms of pop culture that it can get to in 107 minutes.

While the premise of corporate control of the world is an interesting one, the movie doesn't bother to explain what the war is about, or go into the actual working of the corporate governments that exist. Maybe that would be boring, but it makes whatever commentary the movie is trying to make fall flat. It does a good job of being anti-war, the action scenes are pretty intense for a satire, and the senseless and random violence seems at least reminiscent of what's going on in Iraq now, but if it's meant to be a challenging theoretical piece, it doesn't go far enough.

Three I forgot

So I haven't posted in a month. I've been pretty busy, and I've actually seen a few movies that I just forgot to blog about. So I'm going to recap the worst three.

I noticed that SurfTheChannel.com has a documentary section about a month ago, so I watched the number one ranked entry, which was "The Nostradamus Effect," a National Geographic special on the 16th Century prophet and seer, Nostradamus, a name which I first associate with Douglas Coupland's most successful novel, Hey, Nostradamus! I never really got the reference, and I still don't, though I have been thinking recently that I should reread all of Coupland.

The documentary, which is one of those really annoying ones where they repeat the same information over and over again, is mostly about astrology, which is something that I have never really been interested in. Oh well, I just wasted 50 minutes. I really don't recommend watching this, besides being poorly made it contains no good conspiracies. If you really like watching crazy people make ridiculous claims about astrology, you might like it.

So I saw this trailer and got excited to see a good block buster conspiracy flick:

I know, stupid. It was actually the worst movie I have ever seen. I know it's not in theatres anymore, so it doesn't really matter but this movie totally sucked. And there was no conspiracy.

I also saw Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, though I watched a pretty shitty bootleg online. I'm not paying $12 to see this movie. Though I thought it was better, or at least as good as the first. There's something so charming about those guys, that despite the fact that there are no funny parts, you feel good after you watch it. Obviously I was vaguely interested in the movie because the title has a vaguely politically charged title. As I expected, they spend about two minutes on Guantanamo Bay, though the bad guy in this movie (was there a bad guy in the original?) is a Homeland Security dude out to get terrorists. He's a caricature of a racist, using comically obvious racist gestures to intimidate other characters. It's so over the top that it really isn't funny, like a lot of things in the movie. I won't try to analyze the race commentary that the film sort of tries to make. What struck me about this sequel was how much more Hollywood and formulaic it is than the original, but somehow also more enjoyable. I get that their whole thing is an ironic poke at Hollywood conventions, at least more obviously this time around, but it seems crazy that this works for a whole freaking movie. They're also pretty good at the formula it turns out. One thing: I did really miss the extreme dudes, but appreciated the reference to them.

Next time I'll write about something that's actually interesting. Hopefully soon.

16 May 2008


Guns scare the shit out of me. I've never shot one or even touched one (had the opportunity to in Alabama one summer with friends, but declined (I think they thought I was being ideological)). If it was my decision to make, I would destroy all guns. Invariably when I leave movies like "Stop-Loss," I will make this comment to friends: That movie was lame, but the way they portray the danger of guns is amazing. Blood Diamond comes to mind. In keeping with earlier posts, I missed this film in theaters, so I watched a pretty terrible bootleg copy online, at like three in the morning. "Stop-Loss" is basically a melodrama, so formulaic that you can predict each new scene down to the smallest of details, but there are several scenes where guns play a central role, and they all freaked me out.

Go here and click on the fifth video. It's the one with a dude with a buzz cut and no shirt holding a big rifle. It's intense, even at this resolution.

I found the ending of the film kind of frustrating.

Spoiler alert.

I guess I think it sucks that he just goes back to the army. I think it's realistic, and it doesn't necessarily cheapen the earlier drama. But it still kind of sucks. To me it presents a quite nihilistic view of human nature. Ryan Phillippe's character, Sgt. King, goes back to Iraq because he realizes he can't start his life over. He's obviously not against war as a concept, his flight is motivated by self-preservation, and the feeling that he's being treated unfairly. He goes back because he would rather risk his life than try to live it without his family, his hometown, and his country. I sympathize with the decision (who knows what I would do in his situation), but can't help thinking that the film-maker, Kimberly Pierce presents a depressing view of people (articulate, eh?).

Though I didn't care for the narrative of the film, I found the cinematography good and thought the acting was compelling (I don't really know anything about acting, but still). But it is most successful in it's unbiased use of an incredibly contentious political topic to produce a thought provoking narrative experience. The viewer is forced to wonder what they would do in Sgt. King's situation, a degree of empathy not often required by film.

I could also talk a lot about the representation of masculinity in this film, but I think I'll save it. I still need to download "Redacted" and "In the Valley of Elah."

05 May 2008


This video was sent a few days ago by a friend:

It's pretty funny, though gets kind of boring. The payoff is definitely not worth the buildup. But it is successful in its attention to detail, like the fake URL at the end, and the way it imitates the the grammatical constructions of "real" 9/11 conspiracy videos. I'm not sure if this is intended, but I think it is accurate in its mocking of making vague claims that aren't actually corroborated by the video--I'm never really sure what it is I'm supposed to be looking at in videos like this one:

(Interesting detail: the URL in this vid is also broken).

Like other, longer format documentaries, I am forced to question the motive behind these kinds of videos, the "real" ones at any rate. Real meaning they aren't jokes, like the first video. This video is so annoying to watch, with its glitch-y editing, it seems more like a stylized video art project than anything else.

The juxtaposition of these videos seems to capture the dichotomy of responses to the art of conspiracy theory. I find that most people are either quick to believe conspiracies, if not all, then some, while others are even quicker to make some sort of "mature" analysis like this one which was added by the editor to my brooklyn rail article: "Like all conspiracy theories, it taps into the powerlessness felt by the masses." I guess if I really had to think about it, I would probably be on the side of the editor, but I like to at least entertain the possibility of conspiracies before asserting my intellectual superiority over those who invent them. If nothing else, the creators of conspiracy theories, at least decent ones, are magnificent story tellers and fabricators, worthy of that much more praise for convincing at least the gullible among us that what they say is real. Much better than this guy anyway.

22 April 2008

Guerilla journalism

I finally finished reading Shooting War, a really disgusting comic book--nay graphic novel, this book truly deserves the lofty graphic novel distincing--after putting if off for a long time. When it first came out I had no intention of reading it, and then I started this blog, and it seemed like an interesting piece to use. It was painful to get through. Anthony Lappe's writing is cliche, annoying and at time just plain boring, while Dan Goldman's art is actually hard to look at, and so trenderized it's depressing. A representative panel of both collaborator's shortcomings:

I'm not going to waste my time writing a pseudo academic essay like I have in previous posts, but I'll take a stab at analyzing Shooting War's use of politically relevant material as a device for plot and style after the jump.

Shooting War is set in 2011, when John McCain is president and the war in Iraq has continued with no success or end in sight. The protagonist is Jimmy Burns, a renegade video blogger who has gained a name for shocking stories and footage. His catch phrase: "I have a knack for being in the right place when people are going to die." That line is worthy of Hombre or Fistful of Dollars, but I can only wish that it is meant to be read with at least some degree of irony. The plot of the book is pretty similar, if greatly lacking in originality, cohesiveness and continuity, of those seen in books coming out of the big houses, Marvel and DC, and imitates the edgy style of DC's Vertigo imprint (I am all too familiar with these plots after doing a soul crushing stint in the Marvel editorial department). Perhaps its difficulties with continuity in plot are due to its origination as a serialized web comic, but this does not forgive the confusing and lazy way a relatively straight forward plot is related. Time seems to progress forward randomly. The characters and dialog are extremely flat. I guess I've already told you that this is a bad book.

Apparently Lappe is the executive editor for the Guerrilla News Network's website, which I visited occasionally in high school, but found boring even then. Lappe is a little like Aliza Shvarts, who I discussed last post, in that he is clearly interested in being edgy, but seems unsure of how to do it. The politics of Shooting War aren't exactly ambiguous, but they are certainly incomplete and a bit over the top. In the conclusion, President McCain is so moved by the footage broadcast by Jimmy Burns of Iraqis being tortured that he decides to withdraw American soldiers. It seems like a joke, but the book doesn't end any other way. The combination of trendy liberal politics, trendy graphic art and absurd masculine fantasy, all of which seem incomplete in their conception, makes this work seem like even more of a get noticed quick scheme than Zeitgeist. What is sad is that the creators actually seem earnest in their efforts. But what can you expect from a couple of guys that look like this:
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Avant Garde

I found that this jezebel post, which Elena sent to me last week, while not directly related to the content of this blog, certainly provides a good example of an artist who has used a political message to gain exposure. I won't waste my time explaining the silliness of this "work of art", which involves the supposed remains of several self-induced miscarriages by a Yale University senior, as jezebel has done the job well. What I find interesting is that after Yale released a statement denying the veracity of substance of the miscarriages displayed, the artist, Aliza Shvarts, responded to claim that Yale was wrong. Is it really important for her work, the goal of which she claims is to start a dialog about real issues through art--which apparently doesn't happen--contain the actual blood and tissue of her supposed miscarriages?

It seems to me that if the tissue is real, then her work is not really art, because it is not representational, it is an artifact. Obviously many hot-headed undergraduates would disagree with this definition of "art", and I have no intention of bringing this blog into the distorted realm of that debate, but it's relevant given the question that my blog poses. What about using fake blood, or paint, or some substance other than her own miscarried pregnancy, denies her work it's message? It seems more likely, that while making a painting of a miscarriage is certainly interesting, it has nowhere near the shock value, or potential media interest, as some chick who actually did this to herself. Shvarts claims that her piece is meant to spark public dialog, but it's unclear what she wants that dialog to be about.

One conclusion that can be drawn from this event, which is sort of depressing, is that the modern art world is influenced by shock value. While there are tons of artists creating truly innovative, provocative and impressive works, often it is the more shocking works--see "Piss Christ"--that receive public attention outside of the art world, and thus make a name for those artists, obviously regardless of the real merit of the work. That sucks.

04 April 2008

War Made Easy

How much more desensitized to the torture and disfigurement of non-white bodies can we get? At this point it seems like a prerequisite of the documentary film genre.

War Made Easy, which recently ended its run at the Quad Cinema in New York—in my growing theme of tardiness I actually missed the screening by one day and had to watch it on my computer, which at least simulated the experience of watching Zeitgeist to a certain degree—was everything that Zeitgeist, Loose Change, and their ilk are not. The film is too careful in its deconstruction of modern media, and often boring. It provides an almost too perfect counterpoint to my piece on Zeitgeist. The filmmakers, Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp, do not attempt to draw conclusions about the collusion of top government officials and the corporate heads of new media outlets, instead suggesting that the media is basically scared to disagree with government policy during wartime, for fear of bad ratings.

While it does make serious indictments of presidents and the Pentagon for lying to the American people, I find it hard not to draw the conclusion that it is really the fault of the American people, who are deaf to critical reporting and commentary, if that is what the poor ratings reflect. Sure the media is gutless, spineless and lacking in balls, as are the senators and congressman that continually refuse to stand up to war presidents when it really counts, but it seems that the American people make it impossible to do anything else. If the members of congress who voted for the Tonkin Resolution of President Lyndon Johnson fear for their jobs and their constituency, how much can you really blame them? Surely plenty of scuzbags with law degrees are willing and ready to take the place of any representative who falls out of favor. And it’s certainly believable that the one congresswoman who was opposed a military response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, being from California, did not fear her constituency turning against her. It is the duty of the government and the media to truthfully inform the public, but the public also has to be willing to listen.

I'm not trying to say that this is my actual stance on the issue, but the only one I can draw from the case made in the film. War Made Easy intends to prove that government is lying to the public with the aid, or at least without the hindrance, of the modern news media, but it never goes far enough to suggest the reason. Oil money? Power? Or maybe war is what the American people actually want, at least until it starts going badly.

Then there’s the case of Phil Donahue, one of the more salient ones made in the film. Donahue’s show, which apparently had the best ratings on the channel (this claim is actually untrue, at least according to CNN.com, Donahue’s show started with poor ratings that only got worse, getting around 15% the number of viewers as Bill O’Reilly, who Donahue was slated to be the liberal counterweight to), was suddenly cancelled by MSNBC three weeks before the beginning of the war in Iraq. The film cites a memo leaked from MSNBC saying that Donahue’s insistently anti-war commentary was not what American’s needed at that time.

There are a few examples of Maverick anti-war politicians, who, combined with the Donahue story, depict just how uncommon it is for anyone to oppose war when a war is actually starting. With ubiquitous “Support our troops” type rhetoric at these times, any candidate or pundit it seems would be committing career suicide to do so. The film does not completely analyze the power of that rhetoric, but suggests the collective desire of a nation to retaliate against attacks, or perceived attacks, is inexorable. Thus presidents who seek preemptive war must falsify these attacks, or in the case of Iraq, invent the threat of danger. It’s only a step away from a conspiracy theory a la Zeitgeist, but it’s not quite there. Why do presidents want to start preemptive wars? That question is not answered.

War Made Easy is extremely well edited and uses stock footage as well as any documentary I have seen, but lacks credibility due to the singularity of its source. The film is based on a book of the same name, written by Norman Solomon, a leftist journalist, media critic and anti-war activist. Ignoring Solomon’s apparent lack of credibility—he does not have more than a high school degree, having dropped out of Reed College, and none of his dozen books, including “Made Love, Got War”, or other writings have been published by a mainstream press, newspaper or magazine—the film is hurt by the fact that his is virtually the only commentator. Though it is narrated by a big name, Sean Penn, the voice we hear for the majority of the film is Solomon’s. Of course, the film is based on his book, so we would expect to see quite a bit of him, but, in the interest of journalistic integrity, it would be nice to get some other viewpoints. It’s the first political documentary I’ve seen, other than those directed by Michael Moore, which features a single perspective on a subject over multiple voices, usually in different areas of expertise and experience. It does not help that Solomon appears just a little bit crazy, staring intently to the left of the camera with wide eyes set deep in his face. So, despite having a well researched, well presented, and modestly accurate view on a particular phenomenon of American politics, the understanding of which could possibly aid the prevention of future ill-conceived and falsely instigated military conflicts, War Made Easy is difficult to take any more seriously than the grossly fictional conspiracy films that I have previously discussed, and is less entertaining. Like a lot of sociologically based non-fiction, War Made Easy sets out to prove something that most of its viewers would have already sort of figured themselves, but fails to delve further.

27 March 2008


David Hoffman’s film, Sputnik Mania, has a lot to say about the collective American psyche, but does so without being heavy handed. By interpreting the narrative that it constructs, and the roles that America plays in that narrative, the viewer understands why the space race was so important to Americans. Though, the visual metaphor of phalluses being launched into the stratosphere over and over again may be more than enough explanation.

In the beginning of the film, America is represented as a geeky adolescent, whose first rocket explodes before leaving its launch pad. America’s first satellite is also criticized for weighing only thirty lbs. while the Sputnik weighed eighty. But the story of the geek’s triumph over the bully through smarts is the obvious trajectory for the film—one that it subverts in the end. Unfortunately for America, it is not quite the lovable, innocent geek you might expect from The Mighty Ducks etc. As the film shows, America had little sympathy in the eyes of the rest of the world, due to coverage of racist protests at Southern schools after Brown vs Board of Education, the decision reached three years before the launch of Sputnik. One archival film of three young, white and attractive female students trying to give rational reasons why blacks should not be allowed in their schools, was particularly disturbing. So America seems more like the kind of geek that grows up, founds a multi-million dollar software company, but is still an asshole. Russia on the other hand is portrayed as a big, silent bully, and stock footage of Khrushchev only adds to the effect, not to mention the part where they send a dog into space to die.

Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech in which he warns Americans about the “military industrial complex,” appears in just about every political documentary that comes out these days, but in Sputnik Mania, which uses Eisenhower as its protagonist, the speech is absent, though not irrelevant. The film follows the decision making process of Eisenhower, who is pressured more and more to escalate funding and research due to fear of attack from Russian satellites. Both the military and put pressure Eisenhower, while the country experienced mass fear and paranoia. Eisenhower resisted at first, reluctant to give Russia a reason to expand their arms productions, then acquiesced to the demands of the military, giving them the funding to build the first successful rocket. But in the end, he took the responsibility away from the military and put in the hands of civilians through NASA, a truly astute move, which makes one cringe when thinking about all the presidents that have followed him, other than Carter, and I guess Ford.

On a cynical note, you can’t help but think that given control over space travel, the military would have taken it much further than NASA has, given the string of failures and bad press that has plagued NASA for as long as I can remember.

According to Elena, potential reasons not to see this film are a) you’re not American, and b) you’re a girl. She slept through a lot of it, and when I made a lot of jokes about rockets and penises afterward she said, “No wonder I was bored.”

In relationship to other documentaries reviewed on this blog, Sputnik Mania is an interesting example of a work that has no political vision, it's simply a good story. If anything, its slant is promoting peace and the pursuit of science of nuclear holocaust and irrational fear. So the film is really more about making art and telling a story than it is about trying to get across a political message, or inspire political action. And admittedly, it was a little boring. No conspiracy, or corruption, scandals. But it is an astute approach to a bizarre time in American history that has become romanticized, and sort of a worthy homage to Eisenhower.

25 March 2008

Remembering Chicago

I had never heard of the Chicago Ten, or Seven, or Eight, before seeing Brett Morgen’s documentary Chicago 10. In many ways, the film serves as a commemoration of a seemingly insignificant event that occurred during the civil rights and Vietnam protest era of the 60s and 70s, a time that American culture and politics, in Morgen’s view, seem unable to get past. Chicago 10 makes no explicit attempt to compare its subject with the current political climate, and thus implicitly acknowledges both the insignificance of the Chicago Seven and the superficiality of its revolutionary goals.

Abbie Hoffman, the most recognizable of the Chicago Seven, is the unannounced centerpiece of the film. Most of the video footage and sound recordings come from his conversations and public appearances. His personality embodies the spirit of the “Yippies”—the Youth International Party—and he is most often their spokesman. It is his light-heartedness, irreverence and critical nature that the film, and his movement, romanticizes.

At several points in the film, Hoffman refers to the theatricality behind both the establishment and the protests themselves. (That Sacha Baron Cohen is reported to be cast as Hoffman in an Aaron Sorkin and Steven Spielberg film in development is too ironic to even begin to comprehend). Theatricality played a big part in his protests and political message. He once organized a fifty-thousand member demonstration where demonstrators attempted to use their psychic energy to levitate the Pentagon. His long, wild black hair and large nose made his appearance distinguishable. But, as an activist and intellectual, Hoffman made little if any impact in the actual practice of American law making or politics.

One statement that Hoffman makes did resonate with me. Early on in the film, as the demonstration at the 1968 Democratic National Convention is beginning, Hoffman claims that the revolution will not happen through radical changes in law or government, but through changing the attitudes of the constituency in American by setting examples through a certain way of life, presumably one that promotes peace, equality and goodwill. I think this has a lot of power as an idea, but in my opinion, Hoffman was unable to make that ideal a reality, even for himself.

Brett Morgen presents a one-sided view of Hoffman as a martyr and charismatic leader for the anti-war cause. Given that he was dealing with a figure that relied on theatricality over political insight, his documentary did not have much of an opportunity to make significant political commentary, and might have done better to present a more comprehensive portrait of Hoffman the character—or, alternatively, a more complete history of the political climate at the time. Despite this limitation, Morgen is successful in making a relatively uninteresting story into a pretty compelling drama.

When I heard there was a political documentary that used animation I couldn’t believe it. My two favorite things in one film! Which only made it that much more disappointing. The trial scene uses what looks like rotoscoping—a method of animation popularized by Richard Linklater—poorly executed. The characters, other than Judge Julius Hoffman, who I loved, were anatomically simplistic and inaccurate, making those scenes difficult to watch. The choice to use such a stylized form of animation was ultimately a bad one. Two of the more tasteless points in the film were the use of rotoscoped characters in black and white stock footage, and the overlay of a Rage Against the Machine song with stock footage of a concert that featured a white classic rock band in hippie costumes.

Though it picks up at the end, the first hour and half of the film only hints at storytelling—which leaves only twenty minutes at the end. The film does not employ narration, so the viewer is expected to make all the connections between given dates, stock footage and animated sequences to construct the story of the Chicago Seven, and the narrative of the film. Unfortunately, Morgen’s editing is not up to the task, made especially difficult by his lack of a focused argument or political goal. Some of the stock footage is very compelling, as are certain animated sequences, but the collage of the two does not achieve a unified vision. The story of the trial that Morgen tells does not serve as compelling counterpoint to the riots and demonstrations he chose to include.

But Morgen’s craft is not the main culprit in his failure. Instead, it his subject. As a protagonist and martyr, Abbie Hoffman is simply not compelling. His lack of substance and hippified anti-war, anti-establishment positions make him a stereotype and jester of the 60s peace movement, and the rest of the Chicago Seven are even more lacking in personality. After the trial, Jerry Rubin went on to become a business man and entrepreneur, investing in companies like Apple computers. David Dellinger continued to work as a peace advocate. Tom Hayden was an author and unsuccessful mainstream politician. Rennie Davis became the founder of the Foundation for New Humanity, a venture capital company the specializes in new technology, and a followed of Guru Maharaj Ji, of the Divine Light Mission. John Froines is a professor at the UCLA school of Public Health. Lee Weiner continued a career of social activism, but has been relatively quiet. Even Bobby Seale moved away from activism, and in 1987 wrote a book called Barbequing with Bobby. Hoffman committed suicide in 1989 by overdosing on pills. After being arrested on drug charges in 1973, five years after the Chicago Seven trial, Hoffman skipped out on his bail and hid from authorities for several years, continuing his writing and activism.

One of the more effective segments in the film is the silencing and oppression of Bobby Seale—who would make a more compelling protagonist than Hoffman—in the courtroom by Judge Hoffman and the guards. This realistic portrayal of the judge’s overt racism is difficult to watch. Unfortunately Seale’s story is never resolved, other than during the end title where the viewer learns that he was acquitted of all charges after two years in jail. This is most likely due to Seale’s loose affiliation with the rest of the Chicago Seven—the title ‘Seven’ actually excludes Seale—who was eventually dropped from the group of defendants. In the animated courtroom scenes, Seale is silenced because he wants to represent himself, and is very outspoken about the denial his constitutional rights, eventually being bound to his chair with tape over his mouth. His own lawyer was apparently out of the country at the time of the trial and Seale refused representation from William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass, who represented the rest of the Chicago Seven. But Seale’s position as a Black Panther, and his activist work is inconsequential to the rest of the film, and his abuse by the judge and court officials serves more to characterize—or demonize—Judge Hoffman, and the establishment. The presence of blackness, though comprising only a few instances, discredits Hoffman and the Yippies entirely.

In a rare moment of unbiased journalism, Morgen shows a clip, about two-thirds of the way through the film, of a group of black Chicago residents, who are not taking part of the protest. In the stock footage, an interviewer asks a young black girl what she thinks of the protestors. “I don’t really care if they get hurt,” she says. In the footage of the protests in the park, there are few if any non-white protestors, despite the diversity of cultural symbolism and dress that is represented.

Chicago, a city known for its racial tensions, is not the real focus of the film, nor even the residence of the Chicago Seven. The only charge any members of that group—comprised of educated white men—were found guilty of was crossing state borders with the intention to riot. Hoffman scoffs at the allegation, dismissing the court’s ruling as absurd. “We’re being tried for our thoughts,” he told people on the streets of Chicago. “Do you think you should be put in jail because of what you think, or how your hair looks?” he asks an old woman. The statements underline Hoffman’s fundamental problem. His activism and anti-war position is based on a trend—one that combines style and ideology. He is as opposed to the manners and style of the establishment, and their condemnation of his own, as he is to their ideas—ideas which, at least in Chicago 10, he rarely talks about.

sort of related note:
Hoffman reminds me of Ganesh, the protagonist of V. S. Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur, as a white man in America. In the novel, Ganesh adopts a phony Hindu spiritualist persona when he realizes that people will pay him large amounts for his services. It is the authenticity of his performance, which includes not asking for money at all, that attracts people to him, and thus his ethnic identity becomes capital. Hoffman’s appeal is based more on his presentation of an alternative to the establishment than on his writing or philosophy. For him, image and philosophy are inseparably mixed, but his commitment to this practice seems to have made it impossible for him to move on from the events in 1968. Ganesh, on the other hand, did eventually become the official pundit for his people at the novel’s conclusion.

19 March 2008

Berlin: 14

I started Jason Lutes' Berlin at issue 11, and then went back through the rest of them. I just finished 14, and it's getting pretty hard to keep track of what's going on. It's a weird story, there are a ton of characters and threads, some issues end with cliff hangers, some end with non sequiturs. The main threads are fascinating, and everything is underlined with the political tension in Berlin that surrounded the years of the Wiemar Republic and the rise of the Third Reich. When I first started reading it I found myself asking, "Why the hell did he want to write this?" and I'm not sure I'm any more able to answer that question at this point, but there is something incredibly shrewd and impressive about the book. Berlin is more interested in history than politics, and presents as even handed approach to the time period as one could imagine. Lutes also provides links to reference materials on his website. I love that a "cartoonist" is infinitely more researched and journalistic in his approach to a comic book than the makers of the "documentary" reviewed in the previous post.

Issue 15 comes out this month, and though the end of 14 left me pretty confused, I'll be looking forward to the next installment.

PS. While writing this post, I was watching The Bourne Identity, which I'd never seen, on a movie channel that my parents were getting for free for some reason, but it crapped out when it seemed like it was getting to the climactic scene. Fuck.

13 March 2008

The Spirit of the Times

It’s telling that Dylan Avery started writing his popular 9/11 conspiracy film, Loose Change, as a novel, but instead turned it into a documentary. The film, besides having relatively clean graphics and video editing, stands out among other web-based conspiracy movies because of the strength of its narrative. It resembles mainstream political documentaries like Fahrenheit 9/11, and it strings together apparently legitimate sources into a compelling story that seamlessly explains the US government involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite the vast amount of criticism debunking the theory, the DVD has sold fifty thousand copies, and the film has been viewed online over ten million times, even eliciting a response from the U.S. State Department. However, there has been little critical attention paid to the filmmaking itself.

Loose Change has spawned an abundance of YouTube videos that support, deny, or provide alternatives to its arguments about 9/11. The most recent film to gain similar web popularity, though almost no attention from the mainstream media, is Zeitgeist, a three-part attack on what it claims as the pillars of the American establishment: Christianity, the 9/11 conspiracy, and the Federal Reserve bank. Despite the lofty ambitions of the two-hour film, it appears to be successful, as its creators claim, somewhat dubiously, 2.1 million views per month on Zeitgeist’s website. I first heard of the film from a friend and Google employee, who last year lost one hundred dollars in a bet that the film would change his thinking.

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