One of the world’s most famous paintings generates a profound turbulence.
Black and white on a huge canvas, Picasso’s Guernica
imagines the frenzied destruction of an aerial bombing.
It has become an iconic image of the madness of war.
But while Guernica is an image of war, there are no soldiers to be seen.
Instead, the painting depicts a very particular kind of war.
A war against humanity.
The bombs that fell in 1937 on the small town of Guernica
in the Basque region of Spain fell on women and children
and old men and animals.
It was no accident. They were excellent targets.
Which reminds me, have you ever dreamed of flying?
In his masterful The History of Bombing, Sven Lindqvist shows us
that when man first began to dream of flight,
he began to dream of bombs.
Early popular fiction depicted bombers high in the sky,
safe and dedicated to their sacred mission:
the absolute decimation of entire cities and races below.
And then, the dream became real.
Man learned to fly, and quickly, very quickly,
he learned to bomb.
It proved an impressive way of keeping order.
Lets say you had valuable colonies filled with inferior people
who possessed an entirely different skin color than your own.
And say the colonies were disobedient. They opposed your occupation.
Or interrupted your removal of their resources.
Or gave comfort to your enemies.
You merely had to fly over the homes where their children
played and their wives cooked and their elders sat,
and drop your bombs.
The fiery transformation was considered most effective.
You had delivered a clear message on the law of civilization:
Never resist your superiors. Never think of resisting.
Submit and serve.
In this way, early aerial bombing massacred civilians
in the villages and cities of Morocco and India and
Iran and Ethiopia and many, many other countries.
Only you never heard of these bombings.
They had no Picasso to tell the tale of their devastation.
Their stories went up with the smoke.
Oh, the civilized powers dropping the bombs
did not endorse the brutal killing of innocents.
They were nations of laws and justice and religion.
They enacted strict international laws forbidding such actions.
Only these laws applied to humans like themselves.
Humans unlike themselves,
Africans or Arabs or Asians or Indians,
were naturally inferior and fell outside such legal constraints.
They could be slaughtered for their own good.
That’s what was interesting with Guernica.
Europeans bombed innocent Europeans.
That was new in 1937. And deeply unsettling.
Picasso began working on his masterpiece almost immediately
after hearing reports of the atrocity, and Guernica soon toured
widely through Europe. When viewers gazed upon it, did they sense
it was an image more from the future than the past?
No matter. A single painting, no matter how large,
no matter how celebrated the artist,
was not enough. Not enough at all.
Soon the people of the civilized nations would learn
what their darker-skinned brothers already knew.
Everyone was at risk from the sky.
In a few short years, civilians living in huge cities
would be incinerated by the tens of thousands.
Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo would be
decimated in a new kind of war where everyone
was a target and innocence was irrelevant.
Of course, that was another time, another world.
Nothing like this could happen today.
The important work of our greatest artists tell us so.
[The final image here is of a creation by Damien Hirst who just auctioned off some $200 million dollars of his artwork — the news of which ran in all the business publications. As for Guernica, there are many decent websites about it online, and Sven Lindqvist has a brief essay on Guernica here. And if you're interested in fantastic images of early aircraft, there a great archive here.]
EXCLUSIVE ADS FROM MCCAIN CAMPAIGN!
A recently political ad has utterly transformed how we all see Barack Obama.
With millions gushing over Obama, the McCain commercial compares his popularity to the shallow popularity cult of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
And it's like a lightning bolt!
How true! How absolutely correct! The hype and mystification finally exposed!
Yes, Obama is exactly like these two young white female celebrities with their sex tapes and their rich daddies.
When a source on McCain's staff revealed that more commercials of this kind would be coming, SurfingtheSpectacle begged for a look at these ads. We had to know more about the real man lurking behind the Obama mask.
And though we could not obtain the actual videos, we did manage to procure the rough scripts of the upcoming campaign commercials. These scripts are are so stirring, so utterly truthful, we feel compelled to share them with our fellow citizens:
JM08 COM#43: MR. ORATOR
NARRATOR: “He’s the most riveting orator in the world. But does good ‘public speaking’ mean you’re ready to lead? Adolph Hitler thought so, and millions were murdered in a monstrous holocaust. Can we really afford to take a chance on history repeating itself?"
VIDEO: SHOTS OF 200,000 GERMANS CHEERING OBAMA'S SPEECH IN BERLIN INTERCUT WITH IMAGES OF ADOLPH HITLER HOLDING SWAY BEFORE ROUSING GERMAN CROWDS, THEN CAMERA ZOOMS IN AND FREEZES ON OBAMA.
JM08 COM#44: MR. INTELLECTUAL
NARRATOR: "He's an elite Ivy League educated intellectual. But are his ‘big ideas’ right for America? Barack Obama says no to offshore drilling. No to U.S. victory abroad. And YES to taxes. Sound familiar? Sounds like the ‘big ideas’ of the brutal communist dictator Vladimir Lenin. That’s the real Obama."
VIDEO: DRAMATIC SHOTS OF OBAMA SPEAKING BEFORE VARIOUS CROWDS JUXTAPOSED WITH IMAGES OF MISERABLE, REPRESSED SOVIET CITIZENS COWERING.
JM08 COM #45: MR. COOL
NARRATOR: "He's charming. He’s charismatic. He’s ‘cool.’ Or so he seems. Charles Manson seemed charismatic too—an ‘American Original,’ just like Barack Obama. But John McCain knows there’s nothing ‘cool’ about ritualistic cult murder. John McCain knows we don’t need Charlie Manson in the Oval Office.”
VIDEO: IMAGES OF OBAMA SHAKING HANDS, SMILING, JOKING, JUXTAPOSED WITH IMAGES OF CHARLES MANSON AND NEWS FOOTAGE OF THE SHARON TATE MURDERS BEFORE MOVING TO A TIGHT CLOSE UP OF OBAMA'S STRANGE EYES.
JM COM #46: MR. ATHLETE
NARRATOR: "Avoiding military service, Barack Obama never spent time on a battlefield or a POW camp. He preferred instead the safety of a warm gym to develope his lithe, athletic body, much as a gay male bodybuilder might. Does America really want a gay bodybuilder in the White House? John McCain voted to put homosexual rapists and murderers behind bars . . . for life."
VIDEO: SHOTS OF OBAMA PLAYING BASKETBALL WITH THE TROOPS IN IRAQ DISSOLVE TO SHOTS OF MALE BODYBUILDERS DISSOLVE TO GAY PARADE SHOTS, FOLLOWED BY A SERIES OF MUG SHOTS BEFORE SETTLING IN ON OBAMA.
JM08 COM #47: MR. INSPIRATION
NARRATOR: “In our great land, anyone can succeed, regardless of race, creed or color. But does the virulent anti-semitic hate-speech of a Louis Farrakhan really have a place in American politics? John McCain says no. No to race war. No to violence and mob rule. No to Barak Obama’s vision for America."
VIDEO: IMAGE BEGINS WITH SMILING BLACK CHILD, THEN MOVES TO BLACK PANTHERS, LOUIS FARRAKHAN, WILLIE HORTON, URBAN RIOT FOOTAGE AND A LONG ZOOM IN TO AN ANGRY OBAMA.
JM08 COM #48: MR. UNITY
NARRATOR: “Barack Obama calls for global unity, tolerance, and international law — the very same things that the AntiChrist advocates. Don't believe it? When the AntiChrist rides in from Babylon on a horse of death singing a song of unity and the world falls to bloody apocalypse, you'll believe it all right. Read your Bible, America. That’s the real Obama.”
VIDEO: INTERCUT BETWEEN IMAGES OF A CARING OBAMA, A RIDER ATOP A THUNDERING HORSE AND SCENES OF BLOODY GLOBAL APOCALYPSE.
JM08 COM #49: MR. CHANGE AGENT
NARRATOR: Barack Obama stands for 'hope' and ‘change.’ But what does he mean exactly? A Koran in every classroom? Islamofascist control of the the federal government? A terrorist on every street corner? You won't find anything murky and sinister about John McCain — he believes in the purity and goodness of our great nation.
VIDEO: IMAGES OF 9/11 DEVASTATION INTERCUT WITH OBAMA IN ISLAMIC GARB.
THE NEW WORLD
[Guest Entry by Andrew Volpe with editorial assistance by SurfingtheSpectacle]
Some say that there are no more new frontiers in our world today. They claim that every place on earth has been discovered, explored and thoroughly populated.
This is not so.
There is an exciting new land mass that remains more or less untouched by humanity.
It waits in the Pacific, between Hawaii and California, just ripe for the taking.
There's one catch, though.
It's made of garbage.
Though no official name has yet been given this new world, many are simply calling it the "Eastern Garbage Patch."
Although "patch" doesn't quite do the trash mass the justice that it deserves.
Researchers estimate it to weigh roughly three million tons, covering an area larger than Texas.
How did this modern miracle come to be? What could possibly create something so mighty?
Well, man, of course.
Man from all the continents of the world has cast his garbage into the sea. The endless swarms of trash drift and drift until they reach an empty, immense and uninhabited area of the ocean where competing pressure zones from around the world come together to create a dead zone for sailors and sea creatures alike.
And now, garbage.
Oh, clever Nature! How she provides!
The foul-smelling eyesore of our civilization’s garbage finds a far-off watery home, relieving us of its odious presence.
Of course we could simply consume less, waste less, create a lifestyle that utilizes our resources in a clean, self-sustaining manner. But why bother when nature provides its own solution?
Sadly, some don’t grasp the beauty of this organic approach. They point to a certain material in our garbage that takes eons to disintegrate — plastics.
They whine that accumulating plastics poison the environment, poison the creatures that consume the plastics and poison all of us in turn.
It's all gloom and doom.
Have they never heard of a little thing called survival of the fittest?
Embrace the new world, my friends!
Trust to Nature!
[There's an excellent article on the subject here and a decent Wikipedia entry here. Check out the NPR radio story or the video series on VBS.TV called Garbage Island which vividly chronicles this subject. We should mention that there's a Western Garbage Patch, much like the East. And the massive amount of trash in these remote locations aren't actually piled up like marvelous garbage dumps; it's a far more insidious blight as the debris floats in immense swaths below the surface, trillions and trillions of plastic particles and contaminants quietly involved in the steadfast destruction of earth's organic life.]
[Glass of water, anyone?]
BEHOLD THE MAN
Who holds the leash?
Who holds the leash that holds the head of the man? Who holds the leash that drags the naked, beaten man?
Lynndie England. Lynndie England holds the leash. The news has told us that.
But there is another question, one that no one bothered to ask:
Who is the man on the leash?
This is the man on the leash.
He was beaten, drenched in urine, sodomized with a broom, and dragged along the ground on a leash.
He is an Iraqi, he is innocent of all crimes, and now he is something else. He is a witness. Two years ago in an Istanbul hotel room, he told his story.
An American artist was also in that room. He captured the man's likeness and the stream of his words, much as he had with other ill-fated souls of Abu Ghraib.
The artist’s name is Daniel Heyman. His involvement here began with the most infamous photograph from that Baghdad prison: the hooded prisoner.
That stark image became a global symbol of the abuse committed by Americans in Abu Ghraib.
Heyman used the figure himself in silkscreens and etchings to comment on torture. But eventually he found the anonymity of the image troubling. It seemed to continue the process that the torturer had started – to strip the victim of his humanity, to annihilate his self-dignity.
He wondered: Who are these people?
Heyman soon found out. He met an attorney involved in a reparations lawsuit on behalf of detainees held unjustly in the notorious Baghdad prison.
It turns out that many of the inmates tortured in Abu Ghraib were eventually released without any criminal charges.
They were utterly innocent and they were tortured. They returned to their homes broken, ravaged, devastated.
These inmates were later located and brought to Jordan and Turkey for interviews. There they told their stories for the first time. Heyman was invited to sit in and document the process, which he did in drypoint etchings and watercolors.
The result is his Abu Ghraib Detainee Interview Project.
Each story is a catastrophe. They began with events of confusion and tragedy. Houses stormed. People beaten. Explosions. Bewilderment. A man taken away moments after holding his dead children in his arms.
The former inmates chronicle their abuse in Abu Ghraib. These taxi-drivers and dentists and teachers and candy shop owners were rarely told why they were captured. When they asked, they always received the same answer:
Brutality. Deprivation. Rape.
And shame. The father forced to dig a grave for his son. The brother forced to beat brother. All this amid the daily degradation of shit, piss, sexual humiliation and religious mockery.
These events left them traumatized long after they were released.
Personal accounts of torture in Abu Ghraib rarely surface in the mass media. Reports that do emerge seem distant, impersonal.
So it is startling to see the victim’s tale offered in his own words, and rendered visually by the expressive hand of a single artist intently observing.
There is an intimacy here that cameras and other mechanical devices cannot capture. A story passed from person to person.
A story passed to us. If we might consider that Lynndie England did not hold the leash alone, that we are complicit in the crimes done in our name, then Heyman's Abu Ghraib project suggests we can also be involved in repair, in the transmission of new truths.
Many stories need telling.
[Several places on the Web provide more images from this project, including extended accounts of these prisoners' tales, as well as descriptions of Daniel Heyman's techniques and mediums. Check out Heyman's website here which provides links to articles, reviews and his own journals. Good articles can be found here and here with an audio piece here and a video piece here.]
THAT WHICH IS FASHIONABLE
It's insane to go anywhere these days
without a reliable weapon.
But with so many awkward and ungainly choices,
how does one find something suitably chic?
Taser International has the answer.
Its team of top artists and designers have created
stylish tasers for the discerning eye.
Check out this sporty pink number, ladies.
Taser International made it just for you.
Sleek, stylish and, best yet...
...a little squeeze sends 50,000 volts of electric shock
to confound any villain.
Simply ideal for the fashion-forward crowd.
The taser design, with its svelte yet sensuous contours,
has also begun to integrate more organic motifs.
A powerful reminder of man's unity with all living things.
With such a high level of aesthetics, the taser is becoming an objet d'art. What else in your collection can reduce
someone to a writhing bowl of jelly?
Could the taser designers display their work at MOMA or the Louvre?
Of course they could.
But these artists are dedicated to the transformation of everyday culture.
They toil so that we may live full lives of creative imagination.
And now they've dreamt up something truly new and marvelous.
Behold the Taser Music Player Holster, which holds
your favorite taser and an MP3 player.
Everyone knows it’s most unpleasant when you tase a man
and he starts screaming like a little child.
Now you can remain blissfully oblivious to his blood-curdling cries
as you groove to the musical stylings of Phil Collins.
It's a Taser International motto: “Mixing Music with Security.”
Want to subdue an unruly questioner at a political event?
Just set the volume high for your fave tunes
to drown out any silly “Don’t Touch me Bro!”
or "Please, God, no, no!!"
and then tase, tase, tase away!
That Which Can Be Forgotten
“The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human. By robbing them of their personality, he puts them outside the pale of moral obligation.”
(Aldous Huxley, The Olive Tree, 1937)
That Which is Backwards
Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaugherhouse Five considers Tralfamadorians, time travel and the 1945 firebombing of Dresden, Germany, which killed tens of thousands of civilians. Vonnegut was there as a POW. He saw the aftermath of the bombing, an episode that might be said to have altered his comic perspective. Here he reads an excerpt from the book.
TV for Kids!
In our soft permissive materialistic culture, how do we help our kids acquire strong, moral traditional values?
Hamas TV programming, of course! Go here for an excerpt (courtesy of memritv.org) that even Pat Robertson would love. It's got everything: Satan, a goofy rabbit and the question of chopping off a thieving hand.
From the Vault
One of our earliest recordings from television turned out to be the most spiritually profound. Click the incandescent We Are Dying for its profound glimpse of the media age.
Myth of Hollywood
A tale of the American Dream, Hollywood-style. See the video short of Johnny Dullstar, the man who shines the stars along Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
You Belong to Me
Sure, things look bleak in Iraq now. But remember, this war began for all the right and noble reasons. Click here to see Peter Post's glorious video Liberation made in the giddy spring of 2003.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.