pop culture

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Small art.

Mass media is, of course, produced by the rich and the privileged. It bears the stamp of their worldview (the odiously sentimental material about the family having to pull together to support the dad’s tech start-up in Pixar’s Inside Out comes to mind) and the clean, unadventurously crowd-pleasing aesthetics which are the typical result of the focus grouping process. To some people, the slickness of that production—the glossy cover of an official behind-the-scenes art book, the breathtakingly realistic but eerily lifeless CGI of Disney’s recent spate of live-action remakes—has become synonymous with art itself as an idea. Even as they earnestly discuss the necessity of representation and the pain of its absence, they learn not to seek out or accept it unless it’s handed to them from on high by one of perhaps four recognizable branded corporate entities.

The sad irony is that the representation so many are so hungry for already exists. Outside the tiny, blinding spotlight of corporate media, there is an entire world of small, independent media made by marginalized creators and outsider artists of all kinds and reflecting their unique and idiosyncratic worldviews.

Gretchen Felker-Martin on small art.

I have been trying, not always successfully, to consume more “small art”1 and would strongly encourage everyone else to do so, too…

  1. Or, at least, less mass-produced corporate entertainment product. []
2020-05-12T08:39:06+10:0023rd May, 2020|Tags: culture, pop culture|

The American institution.

When the CIA was born in 1947, it promoted torture in its first theaters, one of which was Greece. There, the agency created a Greek CIA equivalent called the KYP, which used torture to curb leftist support. After the 1953 CIA-backed coup in Iran, the United States created a secret police force for the Shah called SAVAK, which routinely tortured Iranians. Likewise, the United States sent infiltration agents from Munich into the U.S.S.R. to engage in sabotage. When the operation was infiltrated by double agents, suspects were routinely tortured. In Brazil, after the CIA overthrew leftist President João Goulart in 1964, suspected leftists were rounded up, death squads were formed, and suspects were tortured and killed on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime. In Uruguay, counterintelligence agent Philip Agee learned that one of his penetration agents in the police force was torturing a prisoner whose name Agee had inadvertently provided. The screams haunted him.

During the hunt for Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia, the CIA sent in Cuban exile-agents who tortured suspected leftist collaborators. Under Reagan, at least two Americans tortured General Ahmed Dlimi before he was killed in Morocco in 1983. In Nicaragua, the Contras routinely engaged in the torture of suspected leftists. “Rose had her breasts cut off,” went one retelling. “Then they cut into her chest and took out her heart.” In El Salvador in 1982, U.S. military advisers watched as their trainees tortured random prisoners who had been dragged from their beds in the middle of the night—and warned the trainees that having any pity was counterproductive. In 1992, Guatemala’s U.S.-trained counterinsurgents captured, tortured and murdered the leftist guerrilla Efrain Bámaca Velásquez. This became an international incident when his wife, the American lawyer Jennifer Harbury, petitioned the CIA with hunger strikes. And then, in November 2001, Libyan national Ibn Shaykh al-Libi was apprehended in Afghanistan and tortured in Egypt. Under duress, al-Libi told his torturers that Saddam Hussein was training Al Qaeda terrorists in the use of chemical weapons. This turned out not to be true. The toll? One million or so dead.

Joel Whitney on American methods.

What this article is actually about is the CIA’s long-running program of, effectively, vetting all films coming out of Hollywood. It’s specifically about The Report which, despite its on-the-nose tie-in merchandise, seems like exactly the kind of boring talking heads political thriller I would love…

Incidentally, for those of you who missed the actual findings from the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, a.k.a. the “torture report”, it was that torture does not work. Like. At all.

2020-01-11T10:59:15+11:0026th April, 2020|Tags: cw: discussions of torture, film, politics, pop culture, usa|

The aesthetic.

As one of the many, many people who’s kind of fascinated with the aesthetic of the Kowloon Walled City, the idea that someone basically recreated the thing as an arcade is like… damn, son.

2020-01-08T13:08:44+11:0018th April, 2020|Tags: pop culture|

88.

Stuck at home and looking for something to do? Why not get (virtually) together with a bunch of other fans and re-shoot an entire film?

Incidentally, there’s an 80s-themed hipster bar here called 88mph and if they’re not playing this non-stop after they’re finally allowed to reopen I will be very Disappoint.

2020-04-15T08:55:55+10:0015th April, 2020|Tags: film, pop culture|