‘12 Years A Slave’ star Chiwetel Ejiofor’s short film ‘Columbite Tantalite’
01:57 pm


Chiwetel Ejiofor

As it currently stands, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the Nigerian-British actor is the bookies favorite to win the Oscar for his outstanding performance in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. I hope he wins.

The talented Mr. Ejiofor has also been writing and directing short films, Slapper in 2008, and last year, Columbite Tantalite, which is described as “a postcolonial parable about the west’s hunger for African mineral wealth.”

As Chiwetel Ejiofor explained in The Guardian last year, his film deals with the mineral coltan, which is mainly mined in east Congo:

In the ground, [coltan is] a metallic ore; when refined, it acquires unique heat-resistant characteristics that make it perfect for use in electronic capacitors. As a result, it is present in nearly every electronic device you can name. Coltan is with us almost everywhere we are – in smartphones, laptops, desktop computers, games consoles – but few people have heard of it. And its story reaches back directly to Congo, where the mining industry has been linked with everything from bankrolling civil wars in the region to the destruction of gorilla habitats.

In full, coltan’s name is columbite-tantalite, after Tantalus, the figure in Greek mythology who was condemned to a horrifying eternal torment, of the things he most desired being just out of his grasp. For many people in Congo, that’s exactly what coltan is – close enough to touch, but its riches out of reach. Like copper at the birth of the electrical age, rubber during the era of automobiles, diamonds for as long as they have been mined, it’s a substance that Congo has supplied to other countries, and which, for all the wealth it generates, has turned into a kind of curse. I knew then that I had the nugget of an idea. And the title for the film.

Without giving too much away, the story focuses on a character who has made a life out of coltan and his attempts to come to terms with his past. Interwoven with this is another strand, which focuses on a new computer game that’s being developed, a game so lifelike that it’s almost like stepping into another world. The young guy promoting the game has no sense at all of how he’s involved in the wider scheme. Indeed, the idea that he is connected to a conflict in a remote part of the world would seem absurd.

But, in a way, that’s what was interesting to me: the capitalist system itself being almost like a game. A game with winners and losers, a game that has had terrible, devastating consequences for so many people in the world. A game that we all play, and in which we manage to silence the horrors that implicate us.

The film was a collaboration between The Guardian newspaper and The Young Vic theater.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
The Socialist Skinhead Soul of The Redskins

This is a guest post from Jason Toon

Socialist skinhead soul outfit The Redskins were so conceptually perfect, that they seemed like something someone made up. And they sort of were. Head ‘skin Chris Dean wasn’t some snaggletoothed bootboy urchin from a cement skyscraper. Dean wrote for the NME, he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, and he had a head full of ideas about youth culture, Trotskyism, and the power of the proper trousers. It was from those ideas, not from the “streets,” that The Redskins sprang.

But The Redskins were a real band, they did inspire a real (if small) left-wing skinhead movement, and most importantly, they did make real (and really great) records. Their 1982 debut single, “Lev Bronstein” b/w “Peasant Army”, paired a post-punk-soul A-side with a chugging Oi! B-side, all produced by Jon Langford of The Mekons and released on his CNT Records. Intriguing enough, especially considering the strident left-wing poetry of the lyrics, but The Redskins really caught fire with their second single, “Lean On Me,” a hyperfast take on ‘60s soul analogous to what the 2-Tone bands did with ‘60s ska. It hit #3 on the UK indie chart, and made The Redskins an electric presence in the ‘80s left-wing pop ferment. When the miner’s strike heated up in 1984, The Redskins’ socialist stance resonated like a brass section.

If you found Crass too tuneless, if Billy Bragg was too quiet, if The Style Council was too slick, The Redskins were your band. And Dean wasn’t afraid to call the others out for insufficient ideological rigour: “If there’s a tour organized by the Labour Party, one thing you can be sure of is that it’ll sell out,” he said about Red Wedge, Labour’s attempt to mount a travelling anti-Thatcher pop circus. And Dean called Bragg “Neil Kinnock’s publicity officer.”

Touche! But the people in those acts are still around, still doing something. Where’s Chris Dean now? It didn’t take long for his revolutionary fire to burn itself out. After a stack of classic singles and one great LP (Neither Washington nor Moscow), The Redskins fizzled out by the end of 1986. Dean was great at writing stirring anthems like “Keep On Keepin’ On!” and “It Can Be Done!”, but alas, failed to walk the walk. He reportedly retreated to a reclusive life in Paris, leaving the rest of us with a totally unique example of how to weave a handful of diverse cultural and political threads into a thrilling band. Whatever you think of The Redskins’ Trotskyist politics, music could use this kind of commitment, imagination, and style today.

The Redskins perform “Lean On Me” live:

Chris Dean and Martin Hewes talk about the band and show the video for “Keep On Keepin’ On!”:

More from The Redskins after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘Whitey on the Moon’: Gil Scott-Heron televises his Revolution in ‘Black Wax,’ 1982
06:03 am


Gil Scott-Heron

As most of the nation still tries to stay warm, If you’re casting about for something to watch or even just something to fill the room, you could do a lot worse than this.

Black Wax, Robert Mugge’s 1982 documentary about Gil Scott-Heron is positively overflowing with the legendary talker and musician—“talker” seeming a far apter description of what GSH did than “street poet.” The man was born to talk, and everything he says in this movie has a wonderful, cockeyed, sad beauty to it. The music, supplied by the Midnight Band, has the same marvelous flow.
Gil Scott-Heron
This photo is from the start of Scott-Heron’s tour of Washington, D.C., somewhere around the middle of part 1. His angry poem “Whitey on the Moon,” which kicks off part 2, is a particular highlight. Enjoy.
Gil Scott-Heron, Black Wax, part 1:

Part 2 after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Garbage in, garbage out: Portugal’s dirty protest against the banks
08:05 am



In Portugal the refuse collectors are on strike, so people are leaving their garbage outside the banks.

According to Euro News, the garbage has been “piling up on some of the streets of the Portuguese capital Lisbon – where refuse collectors have been on strike for three days over plans to privatise the sector.”

Unions representing the refuse collectors estimate 85% of the workers support the strike, which is due to end on 5th January.

Via Matt Bloom, H/T Trevor Ward

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
The truth about Obama’s indiscriminate and bloody drone war

Earlier this year, investigative journalist Greg Palast wrote an excellent article on the documentary Dirty Wars , which exposed the horrific and illegal use of American drones to kill more than 17,000 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The article was titled “The Drone Ranger: Obama’s Dirty War” and was written for Vice. Palast opened the piece by explaining how:

Every Tuesday, President Obama personally checks off the names of people he wants killed. George Bush, a bit more squeamish than Obama, never did that; but Mr. Obama felt those decisions were the president’s responsibility: he want[s] to keep his own finger on the trigger,” according to one report.  A tidy, scheduled man, the President only picks his victims once a week, now called “Terror Tuesday.”

Palast relates how amongst the many strikes ordered by Obama, there was one that killed Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki, a sixteen-year-old “American kid”.

On October 14, 2011, in Shabwah province, Yemen, Abdul, went out with his cousins and friends for a good old US-style barbecue, when Obama’s drone fired a rocket, blowing the teenager to pieces.  Or I should say “piece.”  All that was left of Abdul was a piece of skull with long curly hair that allowed his relatives to identify this hunk of his head by his US-type haircut.

Obama didn’t order the killings (Abdul’s friends and cousins died too) as a random act of crazy.  No-Drama Obama doesn’t believe in random. Abdul’s problem was that his father was Anwar al-Awlaki.  Obama killed Abdul’s dad as well.  Daddy al-Awlaki, an American imam who voted for George Bush, had gone over to the side of the bad guys, and after leaving the USA, broadcast pro-terrorism radio reports from Arabia.

The thing was, this drone attack occured “two weeks after and hundreds of miles away from the site where rockets killed his father.” Obama’s “minions” then attempted to cover-up what had happened. Palast’s article can be read here.

Palast may have shocked those who think of President Obama as some kind of liberal “good guy”—as distinct from George Bush, apparently—and the use of drones as a necessary tool in the “war against terrorism.” But put it this way, if drones were used against America by a foreign power, as America uses them on Pakistan or Afghanistan, how long would it take Obama and co to declare such indiscriminate slaughter was an act of war?

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012, where she worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Linebaugh has written an article about the use of drones for the Guardian, titled “I worked the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on.” It’s an “Edward Snowden” moment, and which I recommend you read.

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from the mosque.

The US and British militaries insist claim that this is an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

As Linebaugh concludes:

The UAVs in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

Read the full article here.

Below Vice podcast featuring Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for “The Nation,” whose work covering America’s special operations [forces] and targeted killings in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia is chronicled in the documentary, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

Via the Guardian

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Freed Pussy Riot still want rid of Putin
07:41 am

Current Events

Pussy Riot
Vladimir Putin

Speaking at their first press conference since their release from prison, members of the Punk collective Pussy Riot said they still wanted to “get rid” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina claimed they were now more politically radicalized after their 21-month prison sentence than before, and were determined to campaign for the rights of all other prisoners. According to the Daily Telegraph, the activists told reporters:

“Our attitude to Vladimir Putin has not changed. We’d like to do what we said in our last action - we’d like him to go away…”

Tolokonnikova was referring to the song “Virgin Mary, Get Rid of Putin,” which Pussy Riot had performed at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow prior to their arrest.

Vladimir Putin is a very closed, opaque chekist,” said Ms Tolokonnikova, using the Russian slang for a secret policeman.

“He is very much afraid. He builds walls around him that block out reality.

“Many of the things he said about Pussy Riot were so far from the truth, but it was clear he really believed them. I think he believes that Western countries are a threat, that it’s a big bad world out there where houses walk on chicken legs and there is a global masonic conspiracy. I don’t want to live in this terrifying fairytale.”

Both Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina named former tycoon and political dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky as the politican they would like to see remove Putin from office. Khodorkovsky was also unexpectedly released from prison last week under a Kremlin amnesty.

Mr Khodorkovsky is currently in Berlin, but has ruled out a career in politics. However, he is said to have “expressed determination to work to help other political prisoners, and he and Pussy Riot have exchanged open letters of support following their release.”

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina mentioned Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, as a source of inspiration, in particular his book on Russian prisons gave them the strength to overcome their ordeal in gaol. 

The activists also “extended an olive branch” to the Russian Orthodox Church, saying “they believed its charitable work had an important role to play in their campaign to change Russia’s prison culture from one of violence and punishment to one of rehabilitation.”


Via the Daily Telegraph

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
John Heartfield, the original culture jammer
07:09 am


John Heartfield

John Heartfield
I recently stumbled upon some images by John Heartfield, and I haven’t been able to get them out of my head. I had never heard of Heartfield before, but the more I look into him, the more central and essential his work seems.

Despite the WASP-y name, Heartfield was German, and although he lived until 1968 his best-known work was during the Weimar era and also the years preceding World War II. He was born Helmut Herzfeld in 1891 and, in a detail that tells you everything you need to know about him, he adopted the English name John Heartfield (“Herzfeld”) in 1917 to protest the anti-British sentiment that was engulfing Germany at the time. His brother was born Wieland Herzfeld and for reasons I don’t fully understand decided to add an “e” to his name, making him Wieland Herzfelde. Heartfield and Herzfelde (along with the expressionist painter George Grosz) started an influential publishing company called the Malik Verlag—that also happened in 1917, the same year Helmut became Heartfield.
Adolf der Übermensch
“Adolf, der Übermensch: Schluckt Gold und redet Blech,” 1932 (“Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Tin”)
Heartfield designed book covers for Upton Sinclair and many other authors and also designed stage sets for Bertolt Brecht. As with his anti-nationalist protest, Heartfield’s connection to the names “Sinclair” and “Brecht” indicates much about his artistic and political sensibility. He was part of the Dada scene as well (check out the “Soeben erschienen” cover below). One thing I didn’t realize until I began researching Heartfield was how much more politicized the German Dada scene was, as opposed to the French variety. If Heartfield’s work is anything to go by (it may not be), the German Dadaists were far more engaged with political struggle.

The man led an interesting life. As a child he and his siblings were abandoned in the woods by their parents—eventually an uncle consented to raise them. In the spring of 1933, the Nazis raided his apartment, but he escaped through the window. Eventually he emigrated to Czechoslovakia on foot—that is, he walked to Czechoslovakia in order to escape the Nazis.
This is the cure
“Das ist das Heil, das sie bringen!” 1938 (“This is the cure that they bring!”)
That’s enough about Heartfield’s life—let’s talk about the work. I’m hesitant to say that Heartfield “invented” photomontage or anything like that, there were certainly people doing that sort of thing before World War I. But there is surely a case to be made that Heartfield was one of the pioneers of photomontage and arguably one of the very first to use it to such powerful effect. In many ways Heartfield might be the first photomontage artist to influence directly a lot of the counterculture movements of the Sixties and beyond. It’s pretty clear he occupies a very special position, and many of his images are decades ahead of their time. You can see Heartfield’s influence in culture jammers of all kinds, from Plunderphonics to every kind of sampleriffic noise collage and beyond.

If you look around the world today, especially on the Internet, you’re sure to see a Heartfield heir somewhere in the mix. Every time you see the head of Obama or George W. Bush pasted onto something else as a political comment, you’re seeing the Heartfield ethic in action. Adbusters has been doing Heartfield-type stuff for years now.

The question arises, Why does Heartfield’s work seem so rich and penetrating whereas (as an example) the Adbusters approach tends to pall after a while? It’s tempting to say that it’s because Heartfield was so willing to go for the jugular in his images, but I actually think it’s something like the opposite. Adbusters isn’t exactly known for pulling its punches either, you know? No, I think what makes Heartfield’s images work so well is actually a kind of delicacy, a perhaps-Continental sensibility that avoids hyperbole in favor of nuanced depth—even the crazy images of Hitler and Goering aren’t all that hyperbolic, they’re witty and they have one foot grounded in the regular world somehow. In a way there’s a lesson there. It doesn’t take artistry of craftsmanship to come up with a visual pun, the craft comes in the execution, the ability to create an image that may have blood, skeletons, misery, and suffering in it and yet not make you turn away.
Hurrah, the Butter is Gone!
Siouxsie and the Banshees, Mittageisen
Siouxsie and the Banshees appropriated one of Heartfield’s most famous images when they released a German translation of their song “Metal Postcard”—you can compare the two images above. The name of the Siouxsie single is “Mittageisen,” which is a pun. The German word Mittagessen means “lunch”—Mittageisen would translate as “midday iron.” The original Heartfield print is called “Hurrah, die Butter ist alle!” which means, “Hurrah, the butter is gone!”—it’s a reference to Hermann Goering’s famous 1936 speech in which he said, “Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.” Heartfield’s ingenious answer is to make a typical Aryan household in which there is only iron on the dinner table.
Here’s Siouxsie and the Banshees playing “Mittageisen” in 1979:

Here’s a playful documentary about Heartfield’s work:

After the jump, several more examples of Heartfield’s searing and sarcastic imagery….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Occupy Wall Street: Memories for sale at walmart.com
06:52 am

Class War

Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy movement may be dead, or it may not, but irony will never, ever die. In a spectacularly brazen display of co-optation, the corporate retail behemoth Walmart—inarguably one of the entities most responsible for the unflaggingly aggressive ongoing campaign to throw the American Working Class into serfdom—is selling panoramic photos of the Ur-Occupy encampment at Manhattan’s Zucotti Park, via its online marketplace. The retailer of the prints is listed as The Poster Corp, and their publisher is named as Lieberman’s—that’s their watermark faintly visible on the images reproduced below.
Occupy has generated plenty of irony before, visible from wherever you stand with respect to its objectives. There was a deep and regrettable irony in the proliferation among Occupiers of those Guy Fawkes masks from the film version of V For Vendetta—products manufactured in Asian sweatshops under license from the Warner Bros. corporation. There was an altogether more vicious irony in the senselessly brutal police response to the movement—somehow Tea Partiers who showed up to protests openly brandishing loaded firearms and calling for the President’s death weren’t enough of a potential risk to public safety for police to bat an eyelash, but peaceable demonstrators camping out in public space to call attention to economic injustice needed to be subjected to repeated violent invasions by militarized cops? But does Walmart—the company that recently drew fire for running a canned food drive to benefit its own impoverished workers—profiting from the sale of images from this genuinely populist anti-corporate uprising not take the prize?

Not ironically at all, but quite fittingly, Occupy itself recently released a t-shirt to benefit Black Friday strikers. Wouldn’t it be something if they got a piece of the posters being sold via Walmart and used that money to help organize retail workers? The very idea is surely pure fantasy—it’s so doubtful that Occupy is getting any of that poster action that it hardly even seems worth asking.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Privatized” may, alas, have been a premature slogan.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
Dangerous Idea: Every American needs to SEE David Simon’s ‘My country is a horror show’ speech!

It’s a very big Internet, so you can be forgiven if you’ve missed David Simon’s absolutely incendiary op ed ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’ that was published on The Guardian’s website on December 7th. But if you’re reading this sentence, you no longer have an excuse and need to click over to said essay NOW and return here after you’ve read it.

You’ll thank me. Trust me, you’ll be smarter after you’ve read it. Go. Now. If there is anything worth your time, it’s THIS. Who wants to be ignorant? Not you, right? NOW.

In the days since it was published, Simon’s essay has turned into a shot heard ‘round the world. In my opinion it’s the most incredibly articulate, passionately argued, well-thought out meditation on America since, I dunno, something Mark Twain (or Kurt Vonnegut) wrote. I believe David Simon’s words to be of historical importance, that is to say future historians will read his essay in an effort to try to understand HOW the American people let it get THIS BAD and still allowed those responsible to continue to operate exactly as they had before. You’d think the economy crashing might have ushered in some change. And it has: Bad for the common man, but great for the capital-hoarding elites.

As Simon rhetorically asks—I’m paraphrasing here—“How much longer until the entire shithouse goes up in flames?”

David Simon’s words have incredible power. The kind of power that educates people, changes minds and makes them do something. It needs to be passed on and on and on until everyone has read it, even your idiot teabagger Fox News-watching Uncle Dumbshit. Especially him.

If you’ve already read Simon’s piece, what you may not be aware of (and the YouTube views thus far would seem to bear this out) is that the essay is actually an edited version of an extraordinary speech that The Wire creator gave in Australia at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. Simon spoke for about 30 minutes and then there was an extended Q&A beyond.

Watch this and then pass it on. On and on and on. He’s not exactly offering much of a prescription here—that’s not his goal—but the diagnosis is spot on…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
The Ted Cruz coloring book for young Republicans
12:46 pm


Ted Cruz

Hours and hours of fun can be had with you and your little one this holiday season with the educational Ted Cruz to the Future™ - Comic Coloring Activity Book. I’m just full of great gift ideas today, aren’t I?

The Cruz to the Future™ coloring book is suitable for any student desk in America, as millions of people across the country admire, respect and portray Mr. Cruz as a positive role model for children, stated publisher Wayne Bell. Parents have told our company they enjoy modern day heroes and positive role models in children’s literature and Mr. Cruz as a sitting U.S. Senator certainly meets the criteria,” continued Bell.

RBCB created this comic coloring and activity book not as an endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz but rather as an educational tool to be used in schools and perhaps as a handout for groups, clubs and organizations.

It’s reasonably priced at only $4.99. I guarantee you’ll have hours and hours of enjoyment defacing the fuck out of this not trying to color outside the strict Republican lines.


Via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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