Finding amusement in the entering into of and leaving from frames, matching scene transitions, jumping over fences and more: Edgar Wright’s visual comedy

A fun reminder of why Edgar Wright is such a strongly visual director – including a nice throwback to the days of Spaced, with a very young-looking Lee Ingleby partaking in a Peckinpah-esque slow-motion finger gun fight.

A shame Every Frame A Painting isn’t going any more, but it was good while it lasted 🙂

Doing Ladybird

What a great resource: an index of all the Ladybird books put out by Wills & Hepworth from the 1940s through to the 1980s – including classic series like Talkabout (721 and 734), How-it-Works (654), Learnabout (634) and of course Children’s Classics (740).

That last one saved me (and, I am sure, countless others) the effort of having to actually wade through great, fat tomes of Dickens, Verne and Dumas. Top work by the Ladybird Fly Away Home website.

Used in concert with vintage Ladybird bookseller The Arran Alexander Collection‘s site, and you will be dropping down into the nostalgia wormhole faster than it takes to flick through a 641.

BritBox, ‘Shallow Grave’ and not drinking gin

Watching Shallow Grave, because finally BritBox has augmented its previously meagre movie offering with some, I don’t know, actual films you might want to watch, instead of a miscellany of minor Carry Ons and half a dozen Ealings and Archers and Hitches.

It’s thanks to a lash-up to the Film4 brand, so we gets some decent fare – more from the 90s Scottish dream team of Boyle-Hodge-Mcdonald with Trainspotting; none-more-4 pictures like Bhaji On The Beach, Bent and Sister My Sister; crime classics like Mona Lisa, Sexy Beast and The Long Good Friday; and noirish dramas like Croupier, Hidden City and Paper Mask.

Could still do with a more comprehensive catalogue – particularly of stuff which otherwise wouldn’t get an airing (yer The Kitchen Toto, Drowning By Numbers, Young Soul Rebels, 1871, Eat The Rich, Angel, Giro City), but a good start nonetheless.

Anyway, Shallow Grave: I can still remember watching it for the first time, mainly for the fact that I missed everything up to the final ten minutes or so.

I’d met up with a bunch of oppos in a pub back in the homelands, for the first time since our post-school diaspora. A fine time was had, except for the discovery of my kryptonite – quinine.

Turns out G&T is definitely not my drink of choice. The proof of this was Pollocksed all over the pub’s toilets, and then after chucking out time all over the exterior of a friend’s car. He had offered to drive us to the new kip of one of our number up in Sunny Hackney (in short order a decision he would come to regret), hence my queasy head bouncing into and out of vomity unconsciousness for all thirty miles of its sojourn , periodically purging out the window.

Can’t say I remember much about that journey, except being very confused at one point to wake up alone in the front passenger seat in an empty Jeep at an East London Maccy D Drive-Thru.

Anyway, got to matey-boy’s digs, met his flatmates, ‘Have you seen Shallow Grave? It’s great,’ says he, sliding a VHS into the video and pressing Play, and promptly I fall asleep on the floor to the opening bars of the Leftfield score, waking only right at the end ready for the reprise to kick in. But it was enough to catch the final reel fight, Sabatier-in-the-shoulder, that foley and all, and the twist, and I was hooked. So we watched it all over again. A decent flick, and shows how Boyle stretched himself from competent episodic TV drama director to an exciting, filmic helmsman.

As an aside, I do like how we the audience are manipulated to identify with the wrong person at every step. When David asks “Is that going to be deep enough?” we’re invited to roll our eyes at his pessimism, especially when Alex casually shuts him down with “Don’t worry about it!” But THE CLUE IS IN THE NAME!

Coexist vs COVID: cheap food to raise funds for free food

At times like these, I really miss Bristol… This Thursday (2nd October) the Coexist Supper Club takeaway will be a Kurdish feast courtesy of guest chef Arash:

Kurdish Dolma- rice stuffed Trinity Centre Garden vine leaves cooked in a rich, tomato sauce

Green falafel and charred asparagus, leeks and courgettes

Hummus

Kurdish shepherd’s salad

Samoon – Kurdish flatbread (g)

Not too shabby for barely a tenner!

Funds raised through the supper club go towards Coexist Community Kitchen‘s ongoing COVID-19 food provisions service, providing hundreds of ready-to-eat or easy-to-reheat meals to people in the city facing hard times thanks to The Fucking Pandemic And General Imminent Societal Collapse.

Definitely worse things you could do, and the idea of a cheap feed for a good cause from a kitchen in East Bristol rings the nostalgia bell for me – having spent many a Thursday night yarning at the Kebele Kafé. Thankfully I see that whilst Kebele changed its name to BASE, the community food angle lives on, with its own COVID food solidarity efforts and the much-loved Sunday lunch continuing.

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The best holiday season ever, in the history of beach seasons globally

Anyone who stands still is a well-disciplined actor: Kubrick, Colceri and Ermey

The story of how R Lee Ermey commando raided his way from film set military advisor to snaring the pivotal onscreen role of drill instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket is a hoary old anecdote.

In pre-production Kubrick needed to audition a whole cadre of young actors as newly-conscripted marines entering Parris Island and being faced with the implications of military life for the first time. Knowing that Kubrick, who was in the habit of not being present for such run-throughs but instead preferred to have them videotaped for his later inspection, Ermey figured out that someone would be needed to deliver the feed lines from the drill instructor to each one of the actors. He further realised that this was his chance to show Kubrick (who had earlier turned down his request to audition for the part of the drill instructor) what he himself could do with the part – in effect hijacking thirty audition tapes, ostensibly of other people, but in which he was the biggest, brashest, most electric element. It was a power play that worked, particularly as a prompter rather a player he was unrestrained by Kubrick’s unwavering demand for actor’s to stick to the dialogue as written, and could instead fall back on his lived experience as a Viet Nam-era DI to machine-gun the shell-shocked Hollywood young bucks with soul-crushing putdowns and the foulest of insults.

It was a power play that worked. The director was amused by Ermey’s sneakiness, and impressed by his embodiment of the character. So Kubrick, that master micro-manager of movies, hired him to be his Hartman – and sacked the actor whom he had hired for the part years previously, despite having had him rehearsing for twelve hours a day, six days a week for eight months on his own, apart from the rest of the cast.

This video is the story of the hoary old anecdote, told not from the perspective of cheeky old Ermey, but from that of the man whose part he snatched: Tim Colceri. An interesting watch.

In-depth report from the September 2000 IMF/World Bank anti-capitalist protests in Praha

Saw this today for the first time (h/t Mark Malone), and it is very interesting indeed – an in-depth report from the frontline of the ‘Blue March’ at the S26 mobilisation against the World Bank and IMF meeting in Praha in Česká Republika back in September 2000.

I haven’t managed to find time to read all the way through yet, but I surely will. Brings back some interesting memories.

Obviously not the sort of folk history we will be permitted to discuss in schools in the near future, but definitely an inspiring episode (caveats pertain, etc).

https://anarchism.pageabode.com/andrewnflood/report-prague-september-2000-world-bank-riot

Somewhat like the art and culture of al-Andalus

Moreish.

Wikipediaphile: Apalachin Conference

I somehow (mistakenly) had it in my head that Coppola included some kind of analogue of the Apalachin Conference in his Godfather movies – there’s just something very filmic about a bunch of overweight, middle-aged thugs muddying up their expensive hand-made shoes and getting tears in their over-tailored suits as they breathlessly hoof it through the woods in a vain attempt to escape the clutches of some small-town cop, and in turn causing a massive spotlight to be turned onto their lucrative but publicity-shy mob rackets.

The Valachi hearings, on the other hand, or the Havana Conference, or the Banco Ambrosiano shenanigans, no, they all got a sideways glance at the very least… Just not Apalachin.

So, what was it?

The Apalachin Meeting was a historic summit of the American Mafia held at the home of mobster Joseph “Joe the Barber” Barbara, in Apalachin, New York, on November 14, 1957.

Frankly, it sounds like a clusterfuck of immense proportions, borne of the minds of a bunch of hubristic psychopaths. What better way to keep your highly illegal money machine running than to invite all your colleagues as well as your business rivals to a big Super Secret Criminal Summit discreetly hosted by a well-known hoodlum at his ostentatious country retreat where there’s one road in, one road out?

On November 14, 1957, the mafia bosses, their advisers and bodyguards, approximately one hundred men in all, met at Barbara’s 53-acre (21 ha) estate in Apalachin, New York. Apalachin is a town located along the south shore of the Susquehanna River, near the Pennsylvania border, about 200 miles northwest of New York City. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss La Cosa Nostra operations such as gambling, casinos and narcotics dealing along with the dividing the illegal operations controlled by the recently killed Albert Anastasia.

How the edifice of this noble citadel came crumbling down is worth an eyeroll:

A local state trooper named Edgar D. Croswell had been aware that Carmine Galante had been stopped by state troopers following a visit to Barbara’s estate the previous year. A check of Galante by the troopers found that he was driving without a license and that he had an extensive criminal record in New York City. In the time preceding the November 1957 meeting, trooper Croswell had Barbara’s house under occasional surveillance. He had become aware that Barbara’s son was reserving rooms in local hotels along with the delivery of a large quantity of meat from a local butcher to the Barbara home. That made Croswell suspicious, and he therefore decided to keep an eye on Barbara’s house. When the state police found many luxury cars parked at Barbara’s home they began taking down license plate numbers. Having found that many of these cars were registered to known criminals, state police reinforcements came to the scene and began to set up a roadblock.

And then…

Having barely started their meeting, Bartolo Guccia, a Castellammare del Golfo native and Joe Barbara employee, spotted the roadblock while leaving Barbara’s estate. Guccia later said he was returning to the Barbara home to check on a fish order. Some attendees attempted to drive away but were stopped by the roadblock. Others trudged through the fields and woods ruining their expensive suits before they were caught.

Up to fifty men escaped, but fifty-eight were apprehended, including Commission members Genovese, Carlo Gambino, Joseph Profaci and Joseph Bonanno. Virtually all of them claimed they had heard Joseph Barbara was feeling ill and that they had visited him to wish him well.

Absolute dickheads. Postscript:

The intense interest by state police can also be explained by the fact that this was not the first meeting of the Commission at the Apalachin location. That same location had been used the previous year, on a smaller scale. Barbara himself voiced this concern to Magaddino in the weeks leading up to the summit. Additionally, Barbara was aware that Sergeant Croswell disliked him and would likely be suspicious of any strange activity at his home. (Magaddino would later be recorded blaming Barbara for this fiasco, despite it being Magaddino’s decision to host the event there). Finally, police and federal agents had only the suspicion of illegal activity occurring at the summit; they did not have sufficient cause to obtain search warrants for the house itself. In fact, most of the crime bosses who were detained were those that attempted to flee the scene, while those who remained inside the house (such as Magaddino) remained free.

https://mafia.wikia.org/wiki/Apalachin_Conference

Essay on cinematic portrayal of NYPD and LAPD cops as ‘monsters’

Now this is quite interesting: ‘The Big City Rogue Cop as Monster: Images of NYPD and LAPD’ – a chapter from a book called Monsters In And Among Us : Toward A Gothic Criminology edited by Caroline Joan Picart and Cecil Greek (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2007).

I’ve not read the rest of it, so I haven’t really a scoobie where they’re going with the whole ‘Gothic Criminology’ thing, but I do like me a bit of sleazy big city American cop drama, so I gave this chapter a go.

Author Cecil Greek refines his focus onto a bunch of Sidney Lumet films for the Big Apple end of things – Serpico, Prince Of The City, Q&A and Night Falls On Manhattan – whilst the City of Angels is represented by Extreme Justice, Dark Blue, Training Day and TV show The Shield.

The gist is, movies show cops in big, bad cities doing some seriously dark shit in the shadows – how much of it really reflects real life? (Spoiler: Knapp, Serpico, Durk and Leuci pretty much covered the historical NYPD stuff, whilst there have been no shortage of similar investigations and exposés of LAPD excesses.)

Oh, and Greek is big on the ‘golem’ thing:

…In the original tales the Golem is created from clay by a rabbi familiar with Jewish mysticism, and brought to life to save members of the ghetto community from anti-Semitic attacks…The Golem is an obedient protector at first, but later becomes ungovernable when asked to carry out more self-aggrandizing activities by the populace. Ultimately, the Golem must be returned to clay as he has no ability to discern which commands he should follow and can harm those he was created to protect. His attempts to participate in the adult world of humans – the Golem seeks to have a bar mitzvah and to marry-are treated as inconceivable as he lacks a soul.

The Golem in fact begins to awaken to his subordinate position and starts to desire very human things. He demands food, drink and sex and when he doesn’t get them, goes on a rampage, taking what he desires. In the process the Golem destroys property and takes innocent lives. He appears to lack the higher level human understanding that such actions have consequences and assumes he has immunity from reprisals.

By no means the deepest analysis (and that’s being generous), and the pool of films looked at does seem curiously limited (for example, no The French Connection or Cop Land or Bad Lieutenant or Fort Apache, The Bronx or 16 Blocks for NYC, no Colors or Rampart or LA Confidential or The New Centurions or End Of Watch or Internal Affairs or Street Kings for LA), but certainly very readable.

A few irritating gripes persist, though: Peter Maas’ book about Frank Serpico came out in 1973 not 1997; Training Day is not about undercover but plainclothes officers; etc.

 

Operation Condor – transnational state terror

There’s a long read in the Graun today about Operation Condor, the formal (if clandestine) conspiracy which conjoined the police, intelligence and military apparatus of numerous right-wing governments across South America in the 1970s.

It is an interesting overview for the casual reader, and focuses on the positive aspects of surviving state terror, and of the importance of working to hold to account those who instigated and sustained it, no matter how many years tumble along the way.

There is, however, a curious determination to divorce Condor – founded in Chile under the approving eyes of Augusto Pinochet, bringing together the secret police of that country together with those of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay, then later Brazil, Ecuador and Peru – from its sponsors up north.

Author Giles Tremlett goes so far as to claim that “Although many of the men who carried out Operation Condor were alumni of the US army’s School of the Americas – a training camp in Panama for military from allied regimes across the continent – this was not a US-led operation.”

Yet elsewhere he acknowledges that public awareness of Condor stemmed from journalistic and activist investigations following the leak of “an obscure FBI note quoted in a book [in which] an FBI officer wrote: ‘Operation Condor is the code name for the collection, exchange and storage of intelligence data concerning leftists, communists and Marxists which was recently established between the cooperating services in South America.’” *

He even refers to the recent revelation that Washington was fully aware of coordination between the Condor partners thanks to the transfer of proprietary secure communications equipment to them by Crypto AG, a CIA/BND front.

Simply saying ‘Condor was not led by the United States’ and leaving it there is not enough. In the same way the right-wing elements in the Chilean military would not have moved against Allende in the way they did without tacit approval from their patrocinadores norteamericanos, it beggars belief that with all the training programmes and intelligence-sharing and military advisor deployments throughout the Cone and – most of all – a shared world view between the US government and its counterparts in the downstairs hemisphere – the Condor conspirators were not confident (and with good reason) that they were pursuing an approved course of action.

Anyway, I’ve been trawling the drives and come up with a few juicy titbits, like this: **

…A close associate of [Dr Lothar] Bossle’s on the Board of the IfD was Prof. Dieter Blumenwitz, Professor of International and Constitutional Law at Würzburg University from 1976 on, who shared Bossle’s close links with Chile and would reportedly visit Colonia Dignidad with Bossle. In 1979, Blumenwitz was one of the co- authors with [Brian] Crozier of Pinochet’s Chilean Constitution; in 1980, Blumenwitz intervened on behalf of Colonia Dignidad in legal proceedings seeking to block Amnesty International’s German section from publishing allegations that the colony had served as a secret DINA torture centre (319).

(319) For biographies of Bossle, Blumenwitz and Rohrmoser, see IGfM, pgs 59, 63 and 65. Bossle would die in 2000, Blumenwitz in 2005, Rohrmoser in September 2008 – see Rohrmoser’s obituary in Die Welt, 18/9/08. In 1981, Rohrmoser would work with the Federal Government on a publication covering the philosophical bases of terrorism; in 1987-88, he would work several times as speaker for the German section of CAUSA. As for Blumenwitz, the legal proceedings against Amnesty International’s German section would run for more than twenty years and would trigger a Chilean court inspection in 1988, leading to a Chilean government decision to close Colonia Dignidad in February 1991 – see Guardian, 24-25/8/91. Blumenwitz’ Chile – Rückfahrt zur Demokratie (Chile – Return to Democracy) would be published by the IfD in 1987. On Colonia Dignidad and its links to DINA, see Gero Gemballa’s Colonia Dignidad, Rowohlt rororo aktuell, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1990, pgs 148-151. On DINA’s Washington assassination of Orlando Letelier, see John Dinges and Saul Landau’s Assassination on Embassy Row (Pantheon, New York 1980; McGraw-Hill, New York 1981); Taylor Branch and Eugene Propper’s Labyrinth (Penguin, London 1983). On DINA’s international cooperation within Operation Condor, see John Dinges’s excellent The Condor Years (New Press, New York 2004). On DINA’s 1975 production of nerve-gas using precursor chemicals purchased from Britain, see Observer, 23/4/89.

There’s also a chapter touching on the topic of Condor in Portrait of a Black Terrorist, the monograph on Italian neofascist and strategy of tension provocateur Stefano Delle Chiaie by the recently departed Scots anarchist Stuart Christie. Certainly worth a read. ***

 

Notes:

[*] Since that original 1980 story emerged, there has been a steady drip of evidence of official US complicity, and even politically non-aligned, academic works have acknowledged that the US government was aware of Operation Condor at the time it was running, and attempted to influence its directing minds, e.g:

U.S. diplomatic documents released in October 2002 revealed that U.S. officials had been aware that Operation Condor was being directed at leftist dissidents of those countries in exile. Although U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had ordered U.S. diplomats on 23 August 1976 to convey official “deep concern” over Operation Condor to the governments involved, this order was rescinded on 20 September 1976 by a senior State Department official in charge of Latin American affairs for fear that the message would antagonize Chilean President Augusto José Ramón Pinochet and the other heads of state. The next day, former Chilean foreign minister Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, an American associate, were both killed by a bomb rigged into the ignition system of Letelier’s car.

Historical Dictionary of Terrorism by Sean K Anderson with Stephen Sloan, Scarecrow Press, 2009 (third edition), p153.

[**] Rogue Agents: Habsburg, Pinay and the Private Cold War 1951-1991 by David Teacher (third edition, 2011), p119.

[***] Christie may be dead, but he outlived Delle Chiaie, who fucked off this mortal coil fifty-one weeks ago.

Texture like Shatner’s Bassoon

Laurence Mason’s very pleasing reimagining of The Stranglers’ Golden Brown as if it had been played by Dave Brubeck in his Take Five days – soon to be released on vinyl with a cover of Walking On The Moon by The Police.

Mason’s bassoon overdub of Jonathan Swan’s incredulous interview with Trump is also worth a hear or two 🙂

Unredacted version of Ali Soufan’s ‘war on terror’ memoir released

‘Black Banner’ comparison (excerpt)

Spotted in the New York Times that former FBI counter-terrorism agent Ali Soufan’s book about his involvement in interrogating al-Qaida suspects has been re-published minus the many redactions insisted upon by the CIA.

The original version of The Black Banners (Declassified): How Torture Derailed The War On Terror After 9/11 (previously released as The Black Banners: The Inside Story Of 9/11 And The War Against Al-Qaeda) was struck through with thick black lines covering up much of the text at the insistence of US government lawyers keen to cover up details of the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture programme.

Nearly two decades’ of whistle-blowing, leaking, investigative reporting, committees and inquiries has somewhat coloured that particular obfuscation effort several shades of pointless, so here we are.

I mean, Soufan’s perspective of the Bureau-Agency turf war even got integrated into a big budget Amazon Prime series complete with romantic sub-plots and stuff (The Looming Tower, based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Wright), so this isn’t exactly a big reveal.

But it is rather interesting to see the two versions side-by-side, and instructive in a reverse-mosaic effect kind of way to see what kind of information, and particularly what kind of aggregated information, these types of state actors prefer to keep hidden in the shadows.

» ‘The Black Banners’ excerpt (side-by-side comparison) (PDF)

‘Incident At Oglala’ – documentary about the shoot-out between the FBI and the American Indian Movement at Pine Ridge

Incident At Oglala DVD cover

Still folder digging, and came across a stash of stuff I did when I tarted up an avi of Michael Apted’s excellent documentary about the Pine Ridge shoot-out, Incident At Oglala, into a proper DVD with chapters, music, on-screen menus and a cover. I’m still moderately happy with the cover.

It is a well-crafted documentary, and gives a good overview of the context, events and aftermath of the Pine Ridge shootout, from a director who also approached the same material from a different perspective with the fictionalised version Thunderheart.

If you are not familiar with AIM, its struggle against the europeanised colonial state – and  in turn the FBI’s campaign against it, twentieth century indigenous resistance, the shootout, and prominent figures involved such as Leonard Peltier (still in prison), then this is an accessible place to start.

Brexit headbanger Baroness Fox’s shady Europhile past

Always a bit of an odd fit – the middle-aged, self-imposed leader of a political youth group who hated school kids (seriously, she really fucking seem to loathe us). Go figure.

Given her personal qualities, I imagine that she will slither into life at SW1A 0PW rather well.