March 31, 2008

Liveleak Steps Up Again: Freedom Is Not Free (with Local Coda)

by Jerome du Bois

Big good news and kudos all around, now that Liveleak has restored Fitna to its servers. Hat tips to Instapundit, lawhawk, and Hot Air. Liveleak's statement:

On the 28th of March LiveLeak.com was left with no other choice but to remove the film "fitna" from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don't consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.

That phrase--

threaten our lives

--should chill anyone who cherishes any of our freedoms.

One of the groups who must be elided but cannot go unmentioned I'll call British Antiterrorism --all the stand-up, clear-eyed, and hardy people now guarding Liveleak's employees and families without being noticed or acknowledged, and all those patient souls now monitoring a whole new network of hinky jihadist moves. I'm sure that's one of the reasons the Liveleak people feel more confident: they're covered now; still, it can't be comfortable to be a constant target. Because these awful bad guys don't forget and don't forgive: after all, Liveleak unleashed Fitna on the world --so many stronger venues refused or folded long before they did, and you can't take that away from them-- and now the viral torrent is unstoppable. The jihadists, whose lives and souls are what the Brits call "the grime," gnaw constantly like rats on their own hatred, living through its festering. British Antiterrorism has a responsibility to protect its citizens; looks like they're doing just that, so bully for them.

The worldwide tension net of terror and counterterror just widened marginally but significantly, as new tendrils and connections recalibrated and rebalanced and everything that could access them vibrated with the changes. So the world tightens, and red arrows point up, and we live with it . . . .

Now for the local coda. We got another comment from, presumably, the same coward who emailed us the "scimitar" comment I quoted in the earlier post. This time I'm going to quote it in full, meager as it is, but before I do I want to call this coward out into the real world. We want your real name. Geert Wilders, the Liveleak people and their families, Robert Spencer, hundreds of thousands of patriotic military people, Catherine and I, and millions of others, are willing to use their real names to stand behind their words, but you aren't, so far, to us. So I call you a coward.

These creeps major in minor ellipticality, so I'll quote "kofiannan" in total. He or she posted this to the "Scimitar's Smile" piece:

Back in the day I'll bet Nazis were pretty cool if you were one of them.

But enough about paranoid nationalist history repeating itself, how have you been?

I've been fine, except for droning malarial mosquitos like you. And if you read your message in the light of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, you will see that every progressive ever admired by the culturati today owes big dues to Mussolini and Hitler; they all thought both of those bastards were "pretty cool." It's not right-wing revisionism; it's called reading primary sources. It's called recognizing facts. And "paranoid nationalist history" sounds a lot like the theme of a Jeremiah Wright / Barack Obama speech to me. Or like Black Panther Shabazz pathetically blaming white people for his own self-twisted soul.

So step up, little person, silly person, so petty, barbarous, infantile and cruel; or shut up and step back; serious people are talking.

Posted by Jerome at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2008

The Scimitar's Smile

by Jerome du Bois

By now those following the strife around Fitna know that Liveleak took the film off of its servers after around 24 hours, after receiving serious threats to their employees. Here is their statement in full (HT Jihad Watch):

Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove Fitna from our servers.

This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else. We would like to thank the thousands of people, from all backgrounds and religions, who gave us their support. They realised LiveLeak.com is a vehicle for many opinions and not just for the support of one.

Perhaps there is still hope that this situation may produce a discussion that could benefit and educate all of us as to how we can accept one anothers culture.

We stood for what we believe in, the ability to be heard, but in the end the price was too high.

Robert Spencer from Jihad Watch had some harsh words for the people who work at Liveleak, in a short post called "Whatever happened to 'Give me liberty or give me death'." He concludes:

"In the end the price was too high" could be the epitaph of the Free West.

I understand their concern for their employees --sure. The employees didn't sign up for this. But if Americans and Westerners and all people who are threatened by the global jihad and Islamic supremacism aren't willing to give their lives for this cause, then all is lost. Because the jihadists certainly are willing to give their lives for their cause. For them, no price is too high. . . .

Others have been more forgiving, saying that Liveleak held up the torch for a whole day, and a million million fires were ignited from that torch, so good for them.

I think about those threats. They wouldn't be ranting emails or taunting phone calls or even slashed tires. They would be something like a cell-phone video of the boss's wife grocery shopping, or the son leaving school, time-stamped so the victim knows exactly how close the jihadists are, and something else that must have given all of Liveleak's employees pause: just how organized the jihadists are. After all, not many people on earth knew exactly where Geert Wilders would place his film, including Wilders himself. Yet within a day of its posting the jihadists knew enough about key employees of Liveleak to apply precise and sophisticated pressure, pressure sufficient to convince Liveleak to fold --after one day.

These bastards are serious, dedicated, professional, wired, and lethally dangerous. I sympathize with the Liveleak people, but Robert Spencer is right. We cannot back down. We cannot be silenced.

My own piece on Fitna, just below, included a local perspective, and the unlikelihood that anyone in the local cultural scene would rush to ensure Fitna received wide exposure. I received a single short email, from a pseudonymous person who is probably one of the local Spoken Word Gang; I recognized the awful, clunky, semicoherent style. I don't know exactly who it is, but as it seems they have only one brain among them to share, they speak alike, with dated, droning sarcasm. In any case, it confirmed my speculation that these people don't want to seriously debate Islam. I will only quote the part relevant to what happened with Liveleak:

I have long feared Islamisation and I will do whatever you think is best to keep their scimitars off my childrens' necks.

This was sent on Friday, before Liveleak folded, and Catherine deleted the comment right away (though kept the email copy). Makes chilly rereading in light of the likely nature of the threats to Liveleak's people and their families.

The comment itself had nothing to do with the hassles of Geert Wilders and Fitna. It was all about the Spoken Word Gang's tiny enclave. Nothing's going on in the world but them. In the meantime, while they snicker and natter to six confederates in their koffee klatches about Dick Cheney and Joe Arpaio, Fitna has gone multiplatinum and is being debated in the highest government chambers worldwide. And Geert Wilders still lives on the run.

The scimitar's smile isn't funny.

Posted by Jerome at 03:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2008

The Third Dutchman

dutch1.jpg
Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, and Geert Wilders.

[I've been following the flickering in and out of Fitna for the last five days, and I'm glad to finally report that Geert Wilders has found a home for the film on LiveLeak. But the torrent has begun, and you can also see it at Hot Air, and at Jihad Watch. And Network Solutions can go suck rocks for water. At the film's conclusion, these words appear: "Stop Islamisation. Defend our freedom." Amen. God bless Geert Wilders.]

by Jerome du Bois

Three hundred and sixty years ago the citizens of the Netherlands welcomed my ancestors into their precincts. My ancestors were French Huguenots with their clothes on fire from Catholic Hounds of God on their trail. They found sanctuary in Holland. After getting their bearings and catching their breath for a few years, my people moved on to the New World of New York, but they brought some Dutch blood along with them, in the forms of husbands, wives and children. I owe them.

Three-plus years ago, right on Election Day, I posted "Seven Statements For Muslims," the first of seven postings about the shooting and stabbing murder of Dutch filmmaker and pro-freedom, anti-Islam activist Theo van Gogh, brought down by a Muslim punk. (I've posted a list at the end of this piece.) I don't know why the ghost of this irascible man haunts me, but he does; why not Daniel Pearl, or Nicholas Berg, or too many other innocent victims? Perhaps because Theo van Gogh was not likeable, even though he was a righteous gentile struggling to rise above himself.

The last piece I wrote about him, "Sorry, Theo, But Bat Boy Is In The Way," was a call for some playwright, or screenwriter (like Roger Simon, silent so far on Wilders), or filmmaker to step up and tell the story of the last twenty years in urban Holland, as the steadily rising Muslim inundation eventually, ineluctably rose above Holland's well-known tolerance and drowned Dutch society; someone to tell the story through the lives and martyrdoms of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, and the continuing struggle of the obstinately honest Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. All three are connected; the death of one triggers decisions for the other two. Nobody has risen to that important occasion yet.

Now Geert Wilders, who has been fighting Muslim suffocation from the inside for almost two decades, has assembled a fifteen-minute video collage showing the vivid, direct, and current connection between dozens of the Koran's suras' verses, and Islamic terrorist acts. The short film is called Fitna, which means "strife" in Arabic. And I'm glad I don't have to give a mano a mano account of the hassles Wilders encountered, since December 2007, trying to broadcast or webcast the film. That fight is over. Fitna is out there right now. Damn good news, though the film itself is grimly graphic; but it also shows that words certainly do have power --evil people fill their mouths with such blasphemies against decency to justify murdering innocents, and then hold up their helpless heads for all the world to see. Other words, written in marker on signboard: "Freedom Go To Hell," and one held under a hijab that sends a chill up one's spine:

Get Ready For The Real Holocaust.

I'm glad Fitna is out there in the world, though it will increase the pressure on Geert Wilders, who already lives like a mobile prisoner or a Witness Under Protection, with armed guards at constantly changing undisclosed locations; he sees his wife, a business executive, only once or twice a month. Why is there no hue and cry about this man's tormentors walking, biking, driving freely around Amsterdam, going to mosque, eating at restaurants, sending money to fellow terrorists, shopping for dubious devices --while Geert Wilders has to duckwalk in Kevlar every time he's out in the open? He's been forced to do this for three-plus years, since Bouyeri assassinated van Gogh and threatened Wilders in print. The Dutch situation is inside out, and a warning bell; in fact, Wilders himself embodies that bell, that canary in the mine, that scapegoat.

Fitna is difficult to watch, but like the ammonia in smelling salts it sharpens your attention and brings tears to your eyes.

While the video was in limbo Catherine and I speculated about the possible venues for it in Phoenix, should Wilders's efforts be thwarted on other fronts. We certainly don't have the bandwith to stream the thing, but there are other options . . .

Two-part question: Locally, were there people or institutions with both (1) the bandwidth or technology and (2) the political sympathy to host Fitna? The answers were (1) plenty and (2) none.

Examples: Tech-savvy curators like John Spiak at ASU and Mike Goodwin at Mesa, or those whizbangs at the Herberger Intermedia lab could certainly come up with something --project it on an outside wall at Nelson Fine Arts, preceded by a screening of van Gogh's Submission. Or get Joe Baker behind it as an essential exercise in Community Engagement, which it damned sure is. I know, I sound ironic, though I'm not kidding. Or you'd think gay activist and part-time ASU professor Gregory Sale would want people to know about those Moroccan-Dutch Muslims who carry signs saying "Throw Gays From Tall Buildings." But . . . In your dreams, people.

Downtown, Kimber Lanning could screen it or stream it at Modified, or Michael Hudson at his newest hole, or Bob Nelson from Anthology; Trunk Space; Perihelion; Spirit of the Senses (?!) or the Phoenix New Times could arrange a benefit. The Arizona Republic online could host it. Or one of the eleventy-two new curators at the Phoenix Art Museum could rub a couple of brain cells together and assemble a van Gogh film night, culminating in the Wilders film and subsequent lively discussion. They have all had plenty of lead time.

But forget it: not now, not in Phoenix, not in the present political climate, which stinks of Cowardice and Fear. I always marvel when people who live here refer to the Valley as "conservative." It hasn't been that way --that strong, that principled-- for many years. Most of our cultural "leaders" are politically-correct dhimmis skimming their way through their lives, skipping around significance whenever it raises its adamantine head.

Just imagine if we had to depend on these bent bozos to find out about Fitna. Yes, reflect on that scenario for a moment, reader, and then thank human ingenuity and the USA for the internet, where you're gettting this information now. And thank Geert Wilders for his continuing daily sacrifice, which is an outrage in a civilized society.

* * * * *

As I was putting this post together, Catherine and I talked about it, as always; and, as usual, I asked her to consider a possible title; she often comes up with multilayered, deeply intuitive titles. But the image that came to her this time was not about the title, but this trio of men. It was the nursery rhyme, written by a man named Eugene Field in Denver in 1889, called "Winken, Blinken, and Nod."

Winken, Blinken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe--
Sailed off on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in the beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Winken, Blinken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in the beautiful sea --
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish --
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fisherman three:
Winken, Blinken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam --
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe
Bringing the fisherman home;
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea --
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Winken, Blinken, and Nod.

Winken and Blinken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoes that sailed the skies
Is the wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fisherman three:
Winken, Blinken, and Nod.

Winken and Blinken have sailed away on the wooden Ark to Heaven, and now Nod cannot afford to nod off. And he isn't; he's standing tall, unweary and unwavering. There will be, there already are, new eyes opening all over the world, unblinking and unwinking, flung open by the unstoppable drive for truth, reason, and freedom.

I'm glad to end this piece with three adventurers sailing the sea of stars, and with images evoking the gathering of stars into golden and silver nets from the twinkling foam surrounding them in their humble, sturdy vessel, the wooden shoe. Wherever Geert Wilders may set off from here, I'm pretty sure he has a guardian spirit on each shoulder to supplement the sadly necessary security crew.

[Postings on Theo van Gogh: Seven Statements for Muslims. Theo Rests His Case. Theo van Gogh Calls on Yasser Arafat. Theo van Gogh Calls on Mohammed Bouyeri. More About Muslims Loving Knives. One More For Theo van Gogh. Sorry, Theo, But Bat Boy Is In The Way.]

Posted by Jerome at 08:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

The Jack Of Spades [Updated 3/22]

I said, "You know, they refused Jesus, too."
He said, "You're not him."

--Dylan, "115th Dream"

by Jerome du Bois

Last week we received a short email from a man who signed with his real name; that was unusual. In fact, even though I won't reveal his name, I wouldn't be writing this piece if he hadn't done that. His message:

I recently moved to downtown Phoenix, and thought I would do a little online research into the going-ons of the area, and I came across your blog.

Frankly, I don't know what to say. You disgust me.

Cheers,
[his first name]

My first reaction was, What would Barack Obama do?

I'm kidding, reader. You know that. So why bring up Barack Obama? Because this post is about him, that Jack of Spades. You'll see.

My first reaction was, Cheers, eh? I'll give you cheers, you bastard. And Catherine called attention to the jaunty tone. "He's having fun," she said. "For him it's fun to hate."

As long-time bloggers we're used to such contextless drive-bys; most of the time, though, they're sent by Anonymous or Pseudonymous. This guy not only had a name, he had a website. I would describe him as a global-music musician. So I read about him for awhile, and then wrote back. Here's some of it:

We disgust you, do we? Undoubtedly because we stand for human dignity and mutual respect. But it's okay for you to come along and, without any context or justification or example or even introduction, to say that you find us disgusting, and we're supposed to just take it? Just sit there and accept it?

And you are . . . ? We've never heard of you. So your message is really empty, isn't it? Why write to us in the first place when you must know that we couldn't care less about your opinion, since you are a complete stranger, with no weight, no reputation, no credibility to carry before you, no people we respect behind you; no credentials? Why write to us when you must know that you mean nothing, nothing, nothing to us?

And I mentioned how he was probably fronting points for Kimber Lanning and Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker and that crowd. But Catherine told me that he was just poking us with a sharp stick, solely for the sake of provocation. She was right, and that's why I won't give him the satisfaction of using his name. His reply:

Wow, you are hilarious.

I've never heard of any of the names you mentioned so I have no idea why you want to associate me with them.

Have fun blogging about me. Anyone worth anything wouldn't bother putting any credence into what you say anyways [sic] considering your blog is full of racist, xenophobic, fear-mongering bullshit.

Ah, now we get down to it, don't we? But not really. In the time-honored fashion of liberal fascism--you know, "the progressive community"-- the guy provides a list of adjectives --boilerplate liberal labels-- with absolutely no supporting arguments, and expects to be taken seriously. Just like, for example, a black preacher who says the USA is run by rich white guys; guys who invented AIDS to infect innocent black victims. Anyone worth anything wouldn't bother putting any credence into what that old fool says, right? He's got chickens roosting where his brain ought to be, yeah? Oh . . .

But let's back up before the jump. This world-music musician, who grew up in Phoenix, who worked on the music part of an art project for Gregory Sale when he was in high school downtown, and who just moved back to Phoenix and took up residence downtown, claims not to know Kimber Lanning, the foremost promoter and go-to person for all alt-world-local music in downtown Phoenix for ten years.

It reminds me of Barack Obama vainly trying to sashay between the lightning bolts of his pastor Jeremiah Wright's anti-American, anti-white sermons for twenty years. Just didn't hear that stuff. (Wait: maybe a little bit, according to yesterday's speech.)

I find neither person believeable. Of course it's possible that the musician had never heard of those people I mentioned; it's just highly unlikely, and I'm going to bet on the odds about this. And on the links of the global musician's website, at the very top, as a banner, what do I see? A full-color endorsement of Barack Obama.

* * * * *

Others created the image of the race card, so I'll play the metaphors I'm dealt. Barack Obama is neither an Ace nor a King; not yet, anyway. He's not the Jack of Diamonds because Rezko clouds his transparency; he's not the Jack of Clubs because he's against the war; he can't be the Jack of Hearts because, though superficially charming, he isn't warm. He's the Jack of Spades because he's only showing one side to us: the black side. As far as I know, he never rhapsodizes about his white mother's heritage, though yesterday he coldly brought his white grandmother's private life into the public eye, violated her confidence and insulted her dignity.

As he gazes off to the left, not looking us in the eye, the Jack of Spades pretends he's a black man while pretending that his campaign has outraced race. But's he's neither black nor white. Like millions of people for hundreds of years, he's part one ethnic group and part another ethnic group. Humans have been creating blended progency for a long time now. Obama has to project the black side to obscure the fact that, racially speaking, he's nothing special; flip over the Jack of Spades and he looks like every other card in the deck.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that Barack Obama came to Chicago as a kind of multiculti blur, and decided to sharpen his political profile by developing relationships in Chicago's black community; and given his progressive background (radical anthropologist atheist mother), he selected Trinity United, whose pastor was steeped in radical politics and black liberation theology.

And for twenty years, apparently, he never once challenged Jeremiah Wright, much less challenged him over and over again until he either changed the guy's mind or gave up and left the church. But he didn't do anything like that. He has been satisfied, as he tells us, to "strongly disagree," to "denounce," some of Wright's positions. But he's disagreeing and denouncing to us, not the offender in question. Unless Obama wasn't offended until millions of potential voters became offended. That's my view. Politically, Obama and Wright are two of a kind.

Tellingly, at least to me, nobody in Obama's camp got ahead of this story before it broke wide. It cannot be that they thought it wouldn't come out; they must have believed that it wouldn't be that incendiary. Or maybe they thought saying "He's not the pastor anymore" would settle the issue. Given the strong negative popular reactions to both Wright's awful statements and Obama's lame explications, these handlers sorely misunderstood the American public. That doesn't bode well for his Presidential chances, which is good news to me, because he's bad news for America, freedom, and truth. His character is as thin as a playing card.

As for our erstwhile musician, I think he came back to town, hooked up with some old friends, met some new ones, and in the course of conversation heard about The Tears Of Things. Since we have absolutely nothing in common with this guy, he had no reason to contact us except to provoke us. Which he did, but the only reason I'm responding is because of the Obama connection.

As for the spade reference --that's just a sharp stick to poke fools with.

* * * * *

UPDATE:

I deleted a comment from a persistent paleface local yokel, but on second thought I'm going to use it, without attribution, as an example of the humorless frown behind the masks of these pomo correctos who are supposed to have mastered irony. First he quotes my last sentence--

As for the spade reference --that's just a sharp stick to poke fools with.

then adds:

Ha-ha-ha! Nothing's funnier than racial slurs!

That's it. End of message. The guy is thicker than lead. Typical white fool comes out running right into the sharp stick. I'm just amazed that anyone rose to such obvious bait.

I should have known this piece would be a tar baby.

Posted by Jerome at 07:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 09, 2008

One Side Fits All

by Jerome du Bois

It would be funny except heroes are dying.

I'm talking about the chorus of artists, curators, collectors and art writers all straining in unison to make Sandow Birk significant, relevant, and talented. There's money and political cachet in it, after all. I'm sure he was a big hit this weekend. I guess singing in tune distracts these operators from what the eye sees: despite the 4' by 8' scale of The Depravities of War prints, Birk doesn't take advantage of the opportunity for creating more detail. These things are crude and lazy. The press release swoons:

Using Callot’s Miseries and Misfortunes of War as a starting point and casting their epic compositions in both America and in the ravaged landscape of Iraq, Birk’s prints depict the course of war and its after effects [sic]. Scaled up and utilizing the woodcut printmaking process to full graphic effect, the images are at once familiar and contemporary, while recognizable as drawing from traditions of art history. The project consists of 15 monumental woodcut prints, each measuring 48” x 96”.

"Full graphic effect" my ass. I'll be using the helpful folks at Hui Press, who know how to present graphics online, to detail examples of how bad a draftsman Birk really is, even "scaled up." The scaling up only magnifies the disappointment. (Look at his fires, his smoke, his clouds, for example. Clunky city.) And they shouldn't have brought up Callot. The reader should take some time examining the Hui Press suite, and then pop up this Temptation of Saint Anthony. Obviously, Birk is closer to Crumb than Callot. Or Goya. Or Doré.

No, I didn't see these things in person. I don't need to. What I did see awhile ago, out in Mesa, was Birk's big to-do about Dante's Divine Comedy. Catherine and I spent about forty-five minutes closely examining how his big dramatic paintings fall apart as you step closer, with buildings made up simply of little square dabs of paint. They reminded us of Andreas Gursky's photos, which we had seen before; like Birk's buildings and landscapes, they pixilate embarrassingly the closer the viewer gets. Those things definitely have a restricted viewing distance. Why make them so big, then? Because big sells. Rich people and museums have big walls to fill and other people to impress. (The prints at the Mesa exhibition showed that Birk is capable of some detail --though not modeling-- which makes these new prints all the more technically lackadaisical.)

More important, though, and not funny at all, is the subject matter --the Iraq War-- and here we see that the same crew is singing off the same page. I don't think it's inaccurate to say that most of the art people downtown and in the Valley are political liberals, and I know some are liberal fascists. In Catherine's words, All-American Anti-American Success Stories. I predict you won't hear a negative word about this show, only raves. Again from the press release (courtesy of Hearsight), which was probably written by "curator" Lara Taubman ("A Warlike People," "Holy Land"), still plowing her tiresome rut:

Images depict the attacks on the mosque in Fallouja, the torturing of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, and insurgent bombings of vehicles along Baghdad’s notorious Airport Road. As in current events, the initial invasion soon degenerates into guerilla warfare and chaos, popular uprisings, scenes of abuse, and eventually to the returning of wounded veterans and would-be celebrations of heroism. Like his predecessors, Birk’s prints draw on art history and current events in a polemical series that critiques the eternal and universally senseless practice of war and military injustice.

Notice there are no terrorists in Iraq. Only "insurgents," and "popular uprisings," and words like "degenerates" and "would-be," perpetuating the liberal side, liberal spin, liberal lies. We've heard this drone before. Was "A Warlike People" about the Polynesians? the Maori? the Yanomamo? Nigerian Muslims? the Janjaweed? the Taliban? Of course not. It was about the bad old USA of course, and the white men that blah blah blah.

A rut is only a grave that's open at both ends.

But enough about Taubman, who didn't have much to "curate" here, except maybe which pieces to put where. (And this show isn't even the main gig for these prints. That's someplace back East. You look it up.)

Let's look more closely at the details of some of these prints, and then turn to what Birk left out of his one-sided, anti-American narrative.

* * * * *

The title page shows some of the elements I want to point out. On both sides you can see fire and smoke, both of which look stiff and heavy, as if cut from tin. The sky features only long lazy lines, except for a toylike helicopter. Look at the grouping in the lower left. The repeated vertical shade lines remind one of Bill Mauldin's WWII cartoons. Finally, notice the kneeling Iraqis. Throughout the series there isn't a single Iraqi who isn't kneeling, bowing, raising their arms, running away, cowering, or having an American weapon aimed at them. Not one stand-up, honorable Iraqi. That's beyond shameful. Not to mention a single good American, of course. No binding of wounds here, only scattered body parts. Not a single good thing has happened in Iraq since the American invasion, according to Sandow Birk. Millions agree. I'm not one of them.

Let's skip through the rest of series, pointing out one or two things here and there. In Preparation check out the flat parachutes, stick figures in the middle background, stuffed-cotton sky, and wooden smoke. Same sky and smoke in Insurrection. Invasion shows better smoke --a hint of Rockwell Kent-- but the whole lower half is almost completely uninflected and washed-out, and there's no sense of perspective: we are supposed to be looking down into a vast desert valley, after all, following the trail of greased lightning. Oh, but nothing but lone and level sands don't stretch really nowhere, with again a few toy tanks pulling what looks like snowbanks behind them. Degradation --wonderful titles, no?-- shows once again a white-lozenge-filled sky, some of it inexplicably reflected in the lower foreground. Again, in the middle left background, Birk shows prisoners sitting cross-legged, but their heads are simple circles, and the guards behind them mere shadows. Lazy, lazy, lazy! When he shows groups, as in Insurrection and Repercussion, the figures blur into one another. Patriots signing up to fight appear in the print titled Obsession, the tenth print in the series and the first one to show a reference to 9/11 --in the background. The very technique itself, though, crude, casual, sketchy and cartoonish, is a dreadful and disdainful insult to the unforgiveable horror of that day.

So now we're into the subject matter. Running through the series again, one can focus on the dead Iraqis on the ground with the Americans just casually standing around; three prints on the subject of Abu Ghraib and torture; defenseless, sometimes naked, Iraqis, surrounded and bullied by strutting, arrogant, blank-faced troopers. Everything burning everywhere, except for Saddam's execution and the sterile committee room at the end of the series.

In Birk's world, there is no Taliban, no Osama bin Laden, no Flight 93, no devastated Pentagon, no vanishing Towers, no murderous 19 Saudis and Egyptians; no assassination of Daniel Pearl, no London or Madrid bombings; no mass graves in Iraq; no poisoned Kurds. No ten-year war between Iraq and Iran. No stonings, no women-killing for what amounts to sport. No evil Islamists, no Caliphate Dream. Sayyad Qutb, who he?

In Birk's world, Theo van Gogh is still offending people; hundreds of beheadings never happened: miraculously the blade passed harmlessly through all those defenseless necks. Looking through these fifteen giant images, we see not a hint that there were such people as Uday and Kusay Hussein; there were no rape rooms, no street abductions, no unexplained disappearances, no giant shredders, no throwing people off of buildings, no cutting out tongues, no starvation, no manipulation of the electric grid, no corruption, no hell on Earth in Iraq. In Sandow Birk's world.

And Hector Ruiz's, too, yeah? and Lara Taubman and the Hui Press people and everyone else who signs off on these obscenities. Who buys these prints, too. I condemn them all; these moral cowards need to change their ways; they need to change their souls. To find them first, though. I say it.

Strong words, yes. But I'm standing up, as best I can, for even stronger people. People five, ten, fifteen, twenty years younger than the cynical art players who both hate and benefit from America's incomparable system. I'm standing up for those who went to rescue other human beings from monsters, who risk their lives for strangers (and us) while we sleep safely in our beds. These privileged downtown Phoenix assholes sipping wine, smiling smugly and nodding knowingly at each other while pocketing profits from printed lies? They've got burnt holes for souls, every damned one of them; they've got nothing, nothing at all to bring forth and compare to such sheer clear honesty and clarity, and eternal shining honor, as our military holds high every day over there.

Posted by Jerome at 09:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2008

From the Mouths of Cowards

by Catherine King

The verbal faux pas from Obama campaigner Samantha Power reminds me exactly of that good ol' puppy dog Randy Kinkel in our post about community engagement. Be all big and tough with your word shots, until you have to own up to them, and then it's "Oh, I SO didn't mean that. What was I saying? I love you guys! (Please don't hurt me. I'll do anything you want.)"

Anybody else nauseated, besides Jerome and me?

Posted by Jerome at 03:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2008

If The Light Rail's Late, Just Take The Stonegate

stargate.jpg
Two views of A New Path, by Ilan Averbuch of New York, situated on the Valley Metro Light Rail Line just East of Central Avenue on Camelback Road, on the South side.

by Jerome du Bois

Looking back, I see that my main objection to the public art I've criticized in this Valley centers on the artists' egos eclipsing any sensitive response to the actual location of the sculpture's realization. So here we have yet another misnamed, misplaced, displaced, noplace piece, which could have been made anywhere, and parts of which already have been. Some of these elements go back twenty years in the artist's repertoire, in three different sites, and somebody tell me what they have to do with Phoenix, the Valley, the desert . . . the future? It's a rough rehash, a drudgy trudge along an old, threadbare path. This thing is his thing, not our thing; it's got nothing to do with us. And that's what makes me mad.

I obtained a publicity pdf about this piece. The main blurb reads,

Design Team Artist Ilan Averbuch, will work with stone and other desert based materials to create a landmark sculpture at the entrance to the light rails station on Camelback. The work is highly expressive in its forms, lit at night and has smaller interrelated elements within the station platform.

--Major landmark sculpture acts as "gateway" to downtown Phoenix.

-- Artwork generates dialogue about the relationship between architecture and the amorphic forms of the sculpture.

First, there's nothing "desert based" about the artist's materials, except perhaps the tree in the ancillary bench piece nearer the station. But this circle and its "matchbook people," as Catherine dubbed them, could have been made anywhere; they are as geographically nonspecific as the outlined couple in Julian Opie's aphasic LED piece down at the Phoenix Art Museum. This stonegate is merely another riff in Averbuch's schtick, as if we must have a recognizable Averbuch in Phoenix, like a concrete feather in our cowboy hat.

The work is not "highly expressive in its forms" at all. Rough-hewn blocks form the simplest expression, and the circle of stones, both horizontal and vertical, has been created millions of times, by countless callused hands, since before we learned to call ourselves homo sapiens sapiens. Usually there's fire in the center, or the stone circle creates a threshold, the physical pause of a gateway between two very different worlds; here there's nothing so dramatic.

Look at those top-heavy blockheads swaying and bobbing their awkward cartoonish selves across the threshold of the "New Path." Throughout history, thresholds have been portentous, a signal of significant transitions, of wrenching transformations. No longer. There's just as good as here, same-same-same, stuttering steel parentheses. Who will be the first to call them "whimsical"? even though they're clunky?

Isn't this the Light Rail? This thing looks as heavy as anything Sisyphus faced. What ever happened to the shiny fast future --here we are, there we go, glendalephoenixmesa in a blur? And though I'm only on the very edge of pop culture, I almost immediately thought of the movie Stargate, and its television clones, and how this clunker falls far short of the intricate carvings of those uncanny stonemetal circles. Contemporary artists often seem to think, erroneously, that their works are immune from comparison to popular culture, as if people separated their judgments of objects according to whether the creator had an MFA or not. But of course people don't do that. I'm saying the gates of the various Stargates expose this "New Path" as lazy and tedious, and many riders on the Rail will be making the same comparison.

At Central and Camelback the Line, depending on its direction of travel, makes major turns South (Eastbound) and/or West (Westbound). As a "gateway to downtown Phoenix," a city almost cringingly anxious about being seen as cutting-edge, this sculpture seems far too crude; it looks like it was put together as a joke by New Deal steelworkers from leftover construction scraps: "Workers Heading Home." All that's missing are the lunchboxes.

If they wanted to stick with raw forms and rusting steel, the selection committee would have been wiser to commission something by Pete Deise --some kind of giant bursting metal desert flower, something with curve and verve, uplift and spin, and interesting from every angle; this is where the Line swings, right? (I was surprised that Mr. Deise was not selected for a single installation along the Line. Less than half the selected artists are locals. You can find the list of artists and artworks here. Just scroll down.)

I don't know who was on the selection committee, and I'm not going to bother to find out. I don't really need more people mad at me. But Ilan Averbuch, like Janet Echelman, did not respond to Phoenix; he just recycled some old ideas, and that was good enough for the folks downtown.

And when some art expert said to them--

Artwork generates dialogue about the relationship between architecture and the amorphic forms of the sculpture

--maybe they just nodded in agreement. But it's an incoherent, trumped-up sentence. "Amorphic" is a synonym for "amorphous," which means "formless," so the phrase would read "the formless forms of the sculpture." And of the course the sculpture has well-defined forms; I could have described it easily without the photos. Finally, when I compare "A New Path" with its surroundings, I see an orderly layout of urban bustle, useful and functional --and right in the middle there's this clutter of fake folk profundity, but it's about another place, maybe even another time. It doesn't belong there.

* * * * *

PS. And can we please call our city Phoenix ? I've noticed a dismaying tendency among local so-called culture writers to jigger up some hip name: The 'Nix, CenPho, P-Town, Pho-Town. Phoenix is an ancient and noble name, a name that embodies a legend about the deepest dream of humanity: resurrection. It is an image, not of hope, but of hope realized. It's a beautiful name.

Posted by Jerome at 08:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack