Surfing the Spectacle

Returning from the Undead

Dear reader, for several years, SurfingtheSpectacle has softly chugged along on automatic pilot. While we attended to other wondrous projects, we left our website here open, but without new creation and embellishment.

That, alas, has left some of you alone and forlorn.

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But it’s important you realize something.

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New blog posts and sidebar entries will emerge,
just as you have dreamed.

Yes, you may pinch yourself.

You are alone no more.

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You must trust us on these things.

Trust us forever.

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We are with you always.

[Our thanks to the pioneering artist Larry Van Pelt
for his inspirational "With You Always" drawing series.]

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The Dream Depicted

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.

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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.

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Which reminds me, have you ever dreamed of flying?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You had delivered a clear message on the law of civilization:

Never resist your superiors. Never think of resisting.
Submit and serve.

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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.

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Of course, 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.

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That’s what was interesting with Guernica.

Europeans bombed innocent Europeans.

That was new in 1937. And deeply unsettling.

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Picasso began working on his masterpiece almost immediately
after hearing reports of the atrocity, and his Guernica painting
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 strong,
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.

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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.

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The important work of our greatest artists tell us so.

[Sven Lindqvist has a brief essay on the Guernica bombing here. This final image is a photo of a Damien Hirst artwork auctioned off with some of his other works for some $200 million — the news of which ran in all the business publications.]

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The New World

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.

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.

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There’s one catch, though.

It’s made of garbage.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Have they never heard of a little thing called survival of the fittest?

Embrace the new world, my friends!

Trust in Nature!

[Guest Entry by Andrew Volpe with editorial assistance by SurfingtheSpectacle]

[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.]

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[Glass of water, anyone?]

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The Man Who Made the Mousetrap

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Who made the mousetrap?

Who? Who?

Hiram Maxim made the mousetrap.

That’s who.

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Hiram had a great creative mind.

In 1881 Hiram visited the Paris Electrical Exhibition.
A man told him, “If you want to make a lot of money,
invent something that will enable these Europeans
to cut each other’s throats with greater facility.”

Hiram did. He invented the world’s first automatic portable machine-gun.

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It could fire 500 rounds a minute, as much as 100 rifles.

Hiram’s invention was soon used in Africa with marvelous results.

A small group of brave English soldiers could employ
the Maxim Gun to mow line after line of unruly warriors
desperate to save their homes from destruction.

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Thousands could be slaughtered in an astonishingly
safe and efficient manner.

Hurrah!

Queen Victoria was much impressed with this American inventor
from Maine and his splendid weapon.

She made him a knight.

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Hiram kept improving his invention.

It was a complicated business.
There were problems regarding the weapon’s weight,
its recoil, the need to keep it cool.

But Hiram was quite ingenious.
Men around the world appreciated this.

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When they were ready for their Great War,
variations of Hiram’s machine gun
could be found on all sides.

It made a brilliant addition to a pointless conflict
in which millions butchered one another
in new and unparalleled ways!

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Hiram also invented a light bulb, a flying machine
and dozens of other devices.

But his most famous invention would be his apparatus
for the mass extermination of humans.

Even the mousetrap,

while quite wonderful,

could not compete.

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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?

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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?

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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. In 2005 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.]

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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.

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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…

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…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.

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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.

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Brilliant!

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.”

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Want to subdue an unruly questioner at a political event?

Go ahead!

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!

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We admit it.

Our harsh denunciation last year of tasers was wildly flawed.

We displayed evidence showing that tasers were dangerous
and frequently misused by poorly trained police and security guards.

As if that really mattered.

We ignored the beauty of it all and in so doing, failed in our role as artists:

Serving those who depend on us.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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.

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Our Twilight Zone

There are juxtapositions so startling and surreal that we must gaze upon them again and again to grasp what they tell us about our world.

The revelations are rarely pleasant.

Witness the televised chat between a Saudi Executioner and his primetime hosts.

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Abdallah Bin Said al-Bishi may be Mecca’s mightiest court-appointed exterminator. He is a manly man. His sword is swift and deadly.

Which makes him a superb guest for anyone’s television show.

But Al-Bishi is not easy to track down. There are limbs to be severed and sinners to be slain. He’s extremely busy with his work.

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Television loves busy men.

One can argue that America’s two greatest gifts to the modern world are weapons of mass destruction and the TV talk show format.

The former gets all the attention, but the latter enjoys
equally widespread and lethal employment.

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What is the marvel of the modern television interview?

Nothing ever seems incongruous. The exquisite banality of the format
cloaks any sense of creeping insanity.

The interview with Al-Bishi then is hardly different than ones
you’ve seen with Paris Hilton.

Or Donald Rumsfeld.

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This show, which first aired on Lebanon’s LBC network in 2006, is an
excellent reminder of how television journalists in the Middle East
possess similar insight and integrity to those in the West.

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Their inquiries are deeply philosophical.

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As for Al-Bishi, he seems like a nice guy. Family man. Fun at picnics.

But it’s probably best to avoid him when he’s working.

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Even though Al-Bishi might be considered dangerous, don’t think these interviewers are afraid of asking tough questions.

Because they’re not. They want to get the story. The real story.

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For all of the glamour and fame of Al-Bishi’s position, he is a modest man.

At the end of the day, he says, his work is just like anyone else’s.

Only his job involves ritualistic dismemberment with its expulsion of internal organs, tissues and brain matter, and yours probably doesn’t.

But that’s not part of the show. This show anyway.

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He’s just a regular guy with a regular job. On television. Talking.

Television: Modern culture’s greatest instrument for manufacturing the Normal.

[Watch the interview or read the transcript here. Originally caught on Metafilter.
For accounts and explicit images of what men like Al-Bishi actually do
on their jobs, you have only to search the Web. It's out there.]

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Gift of the Heart

For Valentine’s Day…

You want to give a gift that will be warmly remembered?

Give the gift of a Kalashnikov AK-47.

You want to say “I love you?”

Say I love you with a Kalashnikov AK-47.

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There are lots of things people want. Some of them they actually need.

But few they’ll treasure.

Listen to us.

They will treasure a sweet little Kalashnikov AK-47.

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What brings people together?

A Kalashnikov AK-47.

Cops love them. Gangs love them. Terrorists and armies love them.

So will your sweetheart.

And guess what? Kids love them too.

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As the poet said….

“Happiness is a warm gun.”

And there is no gun quite as warm as the AK-47.

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Many years ago, in a moment of sacred inspiration,
Ivan Kalashnikov dreamt up this wondrous weapon.

And the world has never been the same.

100 million AK-47s around the globe.

And counting!

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Can you afford such a splendid instrument?

Of course you can.
It’s cheap in every land.

Do you have $100? Then buy one,
buy two. Spread the joy!

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Don’t worry if your beloved
isn’t able to shoot straight.

700 rounds a minute, comrade.
Trust us. Trust the AK-47.

She’ll hit something.

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But what’s that you say?

You don’t have a true love? No one will be your Valentine?

Then give yourself a little kiss.
Give yourself a little love.

Give yourself a little Kalashnikov AK-47

for Valentine’s Day.

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Our Strange Dreams

Perhaps our deepest desires float blindly along
in the dark, adrift from our conscious mind.

Perhaps from time to time these desires merge
with the secret dreams of other dreamers…

And rise to the surface like lava, taking ashen shape
in visions most sublime.

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These images may appear as the product of this artist or that.

But we might rightly consider such visions as nothing less
than the aching manifestations of our collective unconscious.

Our own hopes, wishes, fantasies, unknown even to ourselves,
now thrust into the open with the brazen swagger of truth.

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It is a mark of this world that the expectation of justice
shocks the imagination.

Justice?!

Justice becomes a clever joke among clever people,
but no one does much laughing.

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Still the longing lingers.

And the hidden hope, once exposed, seems awfully…

Sweeeeeeet.

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Book ‘em, Danno.

And get them out of my sight.

[All these mug shots are from Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese's "Line Up," currently displayed at the New York Public Library as part of its "Multiple Interpretations" exhibition. Check out these links for more information. Lastly,
a link for youthful readers mystified by the wondrous phrase, "Book 'em Danno."]

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The Old Dog Begins to Bite

The artist’s subjects are enormous.

He is fond of fleshy souls and depicts them in all their immensity.

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Born in Columbia in 1932, Fernando Botero
took the figures of his boyhood and his imagination,
and inflated them, endowing his dancers, husbands,
bullfighters and lovers with comic and mythic proportion.

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The images are widely beloved. Botero’s art hangs in museums
around the world. He is incredibly famous. He is incredible wealthy.
He has made thousands of paintings, each one worth
more than most make in a lifetime.

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“I like to paint pleasant things…All of my life, by conviction,
I did subjects that were rather pleasant.”

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As a young artist, Botero left Columbia for New York.
In the 13 years he lived there, he painted only his private Columbia.
He moved to Paris and resided there for more than 30 years.
But Paris was never his subject. Only the quaint, charming
figures from his mythic Columbia made the canvas.

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All this time, the real Columbia was mired in disaster.
There were massacres, kidnappings and torture.
Guerillas, paramilitary groups, government forces and
vicious drug cartels vied for control. Life was cheap.
200,000 Columbians were murdered while Botero painted.

But decade after decade, the popular artist portrayed only a sweet,
whimsical world of perpetual innocence.

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Then something happened.

We do not know what.

All we know is that as he approached his 70th year,
the artist began painting things most unpleasant.

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He had heard and read the news reports.
He had imagined the countless horrors of his homeland.
Now he took paint to canvas.

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The fat images were no longer funny.

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The world famous artist did not sell these paintings.
He gave them to the people of Columbia,
donating the work to the National Museum of Columbia.

Botero seemed to be changing.

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When he read of the crimes at Abu Ghraib,
he said he felt he must do something.
So he began to draw. He began to paint.

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His prisoners carry the voluminous corpulence that is his trademark,
but now they wear their flesh as a kind of stark testament
to their tortures. The images are emphatic, insistent.

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“I wanted to recreate the atmosphere in the prison with scenes
that were not scenes in the photos, to make some idea of the feeling,
so that I could communicate some idea of the horrors that were going on…
In painting there is this concentration of emotion through time,
leaving out everything that doesn’t concern the subject,
and this makes the images in painting have special meaning….

Art has the capacity to make us remember a situation for a long time.”

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The artist who found fame and fortune creating
amusing figures from a quaint land of the past
now turns to our world and our time,
and says terrible and unjust events must not go forgotten.

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“It has to be remembered….I could not stay silent. The power of art
is to make you remember something. I hope that will happen with my work.”

[All quotes taken from an interview with Botero here. For a slide show
on his Abu Ghraib work, go here. A good story on his first forays into
Columbian political art can be found here].

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Stopping as a Way of Moving Forward


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Patrick Power has left.

Chronicler. Visionary. Web Guru. Wild Man.

He jumped into Niagara Falls.

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And was gone.

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Many no longer notice the sky and stars,
the wind and light and shadow,
the creatures and the creaking poles,
the electric flare and the mechanical doodad.

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Patrick noticed. He was always looking, seeing.

He never saw the same thing twice.

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He took thousands of photographs and videos.

He saw the things that others missed.

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And considered their energy, their presence.

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In the year before he left, he wrote of these things:

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“The false binary of creation destruction.

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Matter never created or destroyed.

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It comes from a higher place. It changes as it falls.

This is constant.”

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He wrote this too:

“Foolishness as the ancestor of wisdom.

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Stopping as a way of moving forward.

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Circles moving within circles moving within circles.

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The evolutionary narrative.

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The endless mystery as it unravels across time and space.

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These things never happened
but always were.”

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As if Human

One of the world’s most acclaimed artists had a big idea.

His name is Damien Hirst. And he thought, I’ll take some of my millions, buy a huge supply of diamonds, and hire experts to make a diamond encrusted skull.

And then I will sell it on the market for $100 million dollars.

And that’s what happened.

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The work made an estimated $80 million dollars in profit and provided
a powerful comment on, um, something or other.

By the way, we don’t know who the skull originally belonged to.
Mr. Hirst apparently has found little interest in such a question.

Which is not unusual. There are millions of skulls still dressed in flesh
that no one cares about.

Some of these are called the homeless.

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There is a secret about the homeless that few may know.

They are actual human beings. They have names. They have stories.

Mariam Eqbal knows this. She is a young artist in Richmond, Virginia, who began talking to homeless men and women. She wanted to find out who they were. Where did they come from? What are their memories? Their dreams?

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She attended to their simple human dignity.

She listened. She took photographs. And she made illustrations.

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A series of large portraits emerged. Then Ms. Eqbal had another idea.
Perhaps these images could move around the community.

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She walked into the public transit authority and showed them the work.
By the time she left, she had approval to put them on city buses.

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But the materials cost money.
She went door to door to local businesses looking for donations.

She got the money.

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And the buses of the city carried the images from street to street.
Ms. Eqbal’s project did not yield a profit of $80 million dollars.

Indeed, we do not know the result of her transmissions.

Such expressions sometimes take root in the odd corners of our skulls
and cannot easily be measured.

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