by Andrew Loewen on March 4, 2013
Business Insider commissioned photo journalist Robert Johnson to fly over the largest industrial mega-project on earth, Alberta’s Tar Sands, and document the process: from untrammeled boreal forest to strip mines, refineries, and tailing ponds. The results are spectacular and richly informative. A bird’s eye view of a made-in-Canada project. The scale of destruction and irrationality is staggering. Here’s part of a statement from Chief Adam (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation) in response to the US State Dept’s new (favorable) assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands bitumen across the US to the Gulf of Mexico:
Expansion of the tar sands in my people’s homelands means a death sentence for our way of life, destruction of eco-systems vital to the continuation of our inherent treaty rights, and massive contributions to catastrophic global climate change, a fate we all share.
Johnson walks the viewer through the operations step by step, photo by photo. It’s a must-see antidote for the relentless industry BS about sustainability parroted by establishment media like The Edmonton Journal’s editors.
If like me you missed the 2-part Louis CK episodes of WTF when they were originally
aired posted in 2010, they’re up on YouTube. CK is widely regarded (justly in my opinion) as the greatest comedian of this troubled present. He and Marc Maron were friends from their earliest days as 19-year-old standups in Boston, and the candor and intimacy of this interview has sent journalists trailing after Maron as if he were a “Professor of Louis.” Among other things listen to hear what force pivoted Louis CK, from the absurdist and meta-comedic tendencies of his established performing and writing career, into the raw personal material by which most of us came to know him.
I think you’ve always been a poet in the sense that you struggle to understand the large battles that people live in their lives. And you have a way of focusing down and capturing moments that are very specific [and revealing]. – Marc Maron
The Personal Finance Industry Scam (or why everyone else is doing fine while you are not).
For the past few decades, Americans have spent billions of dollars on personal finance products. As salaries have stagnated and companies have cut back on benefits, we’ve taken matters into our own hands, embracing the can-do attitude that if we’re smart enough, we can overcome even daunting financial obstacles. But that’s not true. In this meticulously reported and shocking book, journalist and former financial columnist Helaine Olen goes behind the curtain of the personal finance industry to expose the myths, contradictions, and outright lies it has perpetuated. She shows how an industry that started as a response to the Great Depression morphed into a behemoth that thrives by selling us products and services that offer little if any help.
Helaine Olen on the Majority Report
Born this day in history, the incomparable Edward Gorey (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000).
There is no going to town in a bath tub.
Fifteen minutes before the event. Copyright: Marat Akhmetvaleev
There is no shortage of video footage of the meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk, Feb. 15, 2013. Marat Akhmetvaleev’s photographs may, however, be the only high quality stills. He was out that frosty morning capturing images of the sunrise in the south Urals from a favorite vantage point when the small asteroid appeared in the sky.
This shot shows the trails of two objects continuing earthward after the main explosion.
One minute after the main event. Copyright: Marat Akhmetvaleev
Check out the entire series at his Livejournal page.
by Laurence Miall on February 21, 2013
Having watched all 13 episodes of the Netflix remake of House of Cards, featuring Kevin Spacey at pretty much his most delightfully evil, I’m left wondering if it is to TV, rather than to film, that viewers should look if they want complex narrative. While mainstream film tends ever-more toward the spectacle – do we really need a 3D everything, including Piranhas? – popular television (of the high quality HBO variety) seems to be increasingly sophisticated and character driven.
Here is David Fincher talking about why he signed on to be producer and a director of House of Cards:
If you’re working in the movie business, you’re thinking in terms of you have this two-hour form that requires a kind of ballistic narrative that doesn’t always allow for characterizations to be that complex, or that deep, or that layered, or that you can reveal slowly and be as faceted. And I felt for the past ten years that the best writing that was happening for actors was happening in television. And so I had been looking to do something that was longer form. HitFlix.
The mode of delivery of House of Cards also contributes to its narrative momentum. By making all 13 hours available at once, getting through the plot has become more and more like, well, reading. Fincher describes this nicely:
It’s like a book. It’s like you reading a chapter, set it down. Go get some Thai food, come back, fire it up again. It works in a different way. The pace of consumption in some way informs a kind of relationship that you have with the characters, which is very different from destination television. HitFlix.
Compare the critical and commercial success of House of Cards to the flop of the film version of Cloud Atlas, which was directed by the Wachowskis, the masterminds behind the Matrix. It’s not very surprising to find that a novel this complex cannot be easily translated to one single film. What is surprising, to me anyway, is that movie studios are still trying this kind of lark out with audiences! It’s as if in the wake of the enormous success of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc., film is still seen as the go-to medium for making profitable adaptations of big stories. It’s fuzzy thinking.
When a plot hinges around physical action or journeys, films can do pretty much any story justice – in the hands of good screenwriters and directors, of course. But when a plot hinges around character development and relationships, the constraints of film are too severe. I’ve seen very few films that can pull off the big feat of long-form narrative complexity. The Dogme film, Festen, worked remarkably well, and has subsequently been adapted for the stage, which is perhaps an even better fit for the story. But for narrative complexity of Dostoevskian proportions, television seems to be where it’s at.
Oh, and books, of course, have always been where it’s at!
1. Chelyabinsk before the meteor shower.
2. Chelyabinsk after the meteor shower.
h/t Alexandr Evstr
by Marty Schwartz on February 18, 2013
Back in October, a news item plopped onto my desk like a sack of wet rubber thimbles. Perhaps you remember it. Hasbro, the toy company behind Nerf, Play-Doh and Catchphrase, announced that their film division, which runs out of a tiny yet surprisingly whimsical windowless office on the Universal Pictures lot, would be following up the immense lack of success from last year’s Battleship film with a new three-picture deal.
This seems right. And it makes fiscal sense – my comment on the film’s “lack of success” was actually a bit off. Sure, the budget was $209 million and the domestic take was a paltry $65 million, but this flick was huge overseas, bringing the total worldwide gross up well over $300 million. Why not give Hasbro the keys to a new trio of blockbusters?
And the products they chose to spin into celluloid? Action Man, a British version of G.I. Joe (already another successful franchise), Monopoly (okay, Wall Street with Atlantic City real estate), and Hungry Hungry Hippos.
No, I’m not making that up. A game whose skill and strategy level reach no further than slamming one’s hand down repeatedly on a plastic lever is getting green-lit for a major world-wide theatrical release, whilst my screenplay about an alcoholic mime who communicates with a wise but heart-broken snail named Plook sits on the shelf.
by Michelle Lovegrove Thomson on February 18, 2013
An estimated 150,000 First Nations children were abducted from their homes between 1870 and 1990– shorn, stripped, and shipped across the country. It has long been anecdotally acknowledged that many of these displaced children perished far from their loved ones, but for the first time a number has emerged.
[A People's History (Terre Sauvage) - Diana Thorneycroft]
New research authored by the Missing Children Project is shedding light on the malnutrition and abuse endemic to the residential school system, which in combination with shoddy housing and the easy spread of disease, led to a high volume of deaths. The research team looked at primary documentation indicating the circumstances of individual deaths. The resulting numbers therefore reflect only those deaths that were officially reported.
According to head researcher Alex Maass, “Student deaths were so much part of the system, architectural plans for many schools included cemeteries that were laid out in advance of the building.” Researchers have identified 50 burial sites as part of the Missing Children Project.
A pdf of the Missing Children Project’s research recommendations submitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Council is available online.
A large number of photographs of residential schools are available to be viewed online through Library & Archives Canada: (view after the jump)
The under-appreciated Robbie Fulks keeps his studio releases under fairly strict control; to get a sense of his astonishing abilities on the guitar, and physicality of his playing and singing, you really have to see him live. Here are two clips from a performance in Altadena CA. First a sad but ecstatic anthem of suburban rebellion – the weekend warrior ablaze.
Second a tale of bad decisions and shallow and vain values leading to a squalid and lonely demise. Make mindful decisions – die better.
The highly prolific Ty Segall ~
Thank God For the Sinners
Put a little Satan in space and you got the sound.