Storyville, Under the Wire, BBCiPlayer

marie colvini.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0002k62/storyville-under-the-wire

Unhappy is the land that needs heroes Bertolt Brecht.

A Private War directed by Matthew Heinemann and staring Rosamund Pike as the heroic shambles that was Marie Colvin is in cinemas now. I see no need to see it. It’s all here in Under the Wire. Based on a book by Paul Conroy and his experience in the massacres at Homs. Here we are at the last stand.

13th  February 2012, war-correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy entered war-ravaged Syria. Homs.

Taste and see.

No sense of victory.

Through the lens of an eye

We witness a baby die

Her rage is pure

That’s no me

And not you

Common sense advises us not to pry

Humanity hunts and dies here

In a world of fear

Homs an exit strategy and obscenity

Little trace and little trade

Clinics bombed and shot

Barbed wire in every cot

Put stuff on a chair

It’s no longer there

On a bloody easy bed

Whoosh, barrel bombs and gas

World splintered and gone mad

Tourniquet on a leg

Three feet and so many dead

A reporter for The Sunday Times

Reports victims of war crimes

Assad you war criminal and crook

Where no words can cross the void

Vanity, vanity, vanity, of the house of Assad

May god judge you –soon

We pray every day

A black eye patch will appear

To tell hell how it was when you were here

Your legacy will be not judged by history

But the best you put to rest

A Dangerous Dynasty: The House of Assad, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nick Green.

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Storyville, Jailed in America, BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, 10pm director and narrator Roger Ross Williams.

jailed in america.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bn6tr3/storyville-jailed-in-america

Roger Ross Williams recalled the time he first attended school in his home town of Easton, Pennsylvania and a white kid called him ‘nigger’. The white kid’s mum chastised him and told him not to do that or he would come and burn their house down. Here we are in Trump’s America, before the moron’s moron got to play at being presidential. Here we are in Trump’s America where $265 billion of Federal funds is annually allocated to jail 1 in 3 black men. As profits grown year on year, costs are cut. The quantity and quality of food, for example, for the richest nation on earth, would shame any third-world country – and it’s getting worse. A prison system that jails 2.2 million of its citizens, more incarcerations than every other nation combined. A prison system that is predicated on a simple model of taking money from the poor, incarcerating them and giving the tax dollars to the rich. Jim Crow didn’t go away, he just grew up in a different way.

Here is Ross William’s personal account of what happens to black men that don’t make it, like his old school friend, Tommy Alvin that committed suicide, leaving a daughter behind. We learn he had mental health problems, as do an estimated 67% of prisoners. Alvin was kept in a bubble, a type of transparent cage in a penitentiary for those on suicide watch. He was given a paper suit to wear.

Nothing I saw in this programme surprised me, apart from what seems to me the naïve belief of those like Adam Foss, an activist that attempts to re-educate the 31 000 public prosecutors about the real cost of jailing black people that if they knew the facts their attitude would change. It reminded me of stories of if the king only knew how us peasants suffered he’d be sure to act. If Hitler only knew how us poor Germans suffered he’d be sure to act. If Trump, the moron’s moron only knew…he’d be delighted. Not that he’d ever watch a documentary like this.

Karl Marx’s theory of surplus value shows exactly how important ‘worthless’ prison labour is to the economy. We did have one governor explaining to us ignorant viewers how it works, because in the real world prisoners don’t pay for their food, they don’t pay for their healthcare and they don’t pay rent. Slave owners on plantations used the same argument, it led to civil war. Here we are met with generalised indifference.

Marx, who knew a thing or two about propaganda, has a message from the past, for successful filmmakers like Ross Williams:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it. [italics my own].

Here we are preaching to the converted.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Amen, to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) who foresaw this mockery of natural justice.

 

Tokyo Girls, Storyville, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by Kiyoko Miyake

magna images.jpg

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08w9lvb/storyville-tokyo-girls

This is creepy and weird. Japan is the kind of insular society that a oriental version of Nigel Farage would approve. In stereotypical fashion the Japanese are polite, but they don’t like foreigners much and tend to stick to their own kind. But they have an aging population and the number of births falls lower every year. Tokyo has one of the highest population densities in the world. Old housing is knocked down and rebuilt, smaller, every thirty years. London bedsits by contrast would be seen as roomy and inexpensive. Every year there is a scandal about houses the size of a coffin None of this is in Tokyo Girls. It’s a simple storyline with the tag ‘Pop idol Rio Hiiragi’s journey toward fame’. I’m giving you the context.  She is a quite pretty girl, twenty-one when the programme ends, but ironically, far too old for many otaku, Japanese idol fans who tend to be middle-aged men with an obsessive interest in young girls.

Otaku originally described a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills. The so called lost generation stuck in their coffin-sized room, locked in with their aging parents, never meet females in the real world but have an obsessive interest in anime and manga fandom. The shy kid that doesn’t go out, but locks himself in. Pop idols like Rio are ready made anime images that they can interact with for a price. They can subscribe to their channels and even attend meets and greets, but they tend to be super-fans such as ‘Pidl’ a middle-aged salary-man who left his job to dedicate his life to Rio. He reckons he spends on average $2000 a month on following her.

Meeting idols is big business, fans such as ‘Pidl’ get to shake their idols hands and look them in the eye. A bouncer is on hand to move them along after about another minute another middle-aged man takes their place and holds the girl’s hand.

Take, for example, Amu, who is thirteen and an idol in a band called Harajuru, where each child has to compete with other children wanting a spot in the band and on stage. She is successful. Male fans get to hold her hand. Amu’s mum, said at first ‘she was scared’ but now thinks of Amu’s fans ‘as fathers to her’.  One of the father-figures declared that he preferred the much younger idols. My guess there’s a Gary Glitter on every corner and this feeds that crazy. To misquote  Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ‘the silt of tomorrow’ grows in the shit of today.

 

OJ: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edleman. Storyville, BBC 4, iPlayer.

OJ.jpg

Winner of the 2017 Academy Award for best documentary this five-part series is an investment of time. The premium dividend is it shows how America is polarised around issues of class and race. Karl Marx’s dictum that history repeats itself the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce is apt. OJ is the poster boy. A black all American boy that went to a white college, became the All American hero used by Hertz to sell their cars. ‘Go OJ,’ the tag, but used white actors to screen wash skin colour away. He became an actor, starring in films, such as Naked Gun, the biggest role he played being himself. He was involved in the trial of the century. Accused of killing his estranged, second wife, white beauty queen, Nicole and a male visitor to her house 13th June 1994.   Evidence, including forensic evidence, placed OJ at the scene. Black jurors remained unconvinced. One of them agreed that it was ‘payback’ time for a Los Angeles Police Department that acted like an invading army in the black community and regularly got away with murder and the maiming of those of African American ethnicity. Polls taken after the trial showed that over 75% of white thought OJ was guilty. Over 80% of blacks thought him innocent. OJ proved himself more stupid than guilty, ghosting a book, ‘IF’ in which he admitted his hypothetical guilt. He was later jailed for thirty-three years for a botched robbery in which he tried to take back sporting mementos he had once owned from a collector and seller of memorabilia. Black and white commentators suggested this was payback time for OJ.

There is a postscript of course with a black president Obama, in the White House, followed by the moron’s moron, convicted in the supreme court of discriminating against blacks in term of housing, but still elected president on a platform of racial hatred – and appointing a member of the Ku Klux Klan to a senior position in his White House.

If you think black lives matter this is worth watching.   One of the stories OJ liked recalling was after retiring from American football, and becoming a full-time, paid, celebrity, he overhead a little old white women saying ‘she’d seen OJ, but he was sitting with a lot of niggers’. Race didn’t matter. OJ’s celebrity made others colour blind. Until it did. In the same way that class doesn’t matter, until it does. This is the best documentary you’ll see this decade.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08qldj6

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb30l

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb4wh

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb6f2

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb6zx

 

Storyville: Blackfish – The Whale That Killed, BBC 4, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03j49l6/storyville-20132014-12-blackfish-the-whale-that-killed

We all know the story of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. Man versus whale and neither wins. Score draw on the coupon. I’ve started the books a few times and never got beyond the first pages. Wooden ships used to go away for a year or more and come back loaded down with whale blubber and oil. Prototype factory ships.  Boiled down whale oil used to light our homes. Some of the bones were good for corsets. I can understand that. Food and oil. It’s a man’s world. Whales had a fighting chance.

I can even understand why, after the defeat of Japan, the Allies harvested the seas to feed a starving population. One whale can feed many mouths. Nowadays whales are still harvested for foodies under the guise of scientific research. Bullshit.

We’re getting to the stage when the only things left on the planet will be hominine and giant beef burghers with six legs. Blackfish takes us into a sewer even worse than that. It begins with the capture of a baby bull orca in the waters of Hafnarfjörður, near Reykjavík, Iceland in 1983. Spotter planes and speed boats using high explosives herded the group of whales into a watery cul de sac where they could separate the infant whale from its mother and family group. One grizzled veteran said he’s seen some heavy shit in his life, but the mother and other whales ‘talking’ to the traumatised baby being lifted from the water was something that stuck with him, even all these years later. Later in the programme another infant whale is separated from its mother, a captive whale in  Sealand of the Pacific in South Oak Bay, British Columbia and sent somewhere else because it was disruptive and because that’s where the money was. Whales have their own kind of intelligence. One expert suggests their limbic system, which mediates emotional responses, is far more developed than humans.  Sealand was in the business of transforming whale into performing pets. When we talk about a whale grieving for its baby and sending out sonic signals that are able to travel thousands of miles under water, we conflated anthropomorphism and basic science. All of the keepers interviewed here were fed the same diet of hearsay and became Sealand believers spouting the party line that these whales were better off in captivity, where they lived longer and received medical care. Dorsal fins that atrophy and collapse in isolation ponds and water pods is mirrored by those whales in the wild. Eh, no it isnae, but let’s face it, we don’t meet many whales when wondering down Sauchiehall Street.  The reality they later recognised was whales were cash cows used to fleece the public.

Tillicum (Tilly to its friends) the bull orca was milked for its sperm for breeding purposes and to provide a splash in performances. Bottom of the pecking order and with nowhere to flee two older female orcas given the names of Haida II and Nootka IV beat and slashed his body until male and female were separated.

Tilly killed three people. He grabbed them by the arm or leg and drowned them. Here Seaworld propaganda kicks in again. In the blame game those without money or power, the bottom of the food chain, a young female student and trainer, a man with mental health problems and a forty-year old female trainer were all to blame. They’d brought it on themselves. They’d did something they shouldn’t have. Tilly the cash cow was innocent. Money talks and Tilly walks. That’s the way the world works. It would be a good idea to fling in a few of those who invested in this barbarism into a pond with Tilly, because he’s so harmless. Only after they have been properly trained, of course. I’m not a monster.  Steel bucket filled with fish. Pair of flippers and rubber ring. Watch this and weep.

 

BBC 4 iPlayer Storyville, The Internet’s Own Boy

aaron swartz

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b051wkry/storyville-20142015-11-the-internets-own-boy

You have 19 days left to watch this. I suggest you do. It says a lot about where we are. Aaron Schwarz committed suicide 11th January 2013 in Brooklyn, New York. He was aged 26. Aaron’s girlfriend, Tarren Stinebrinckner-Kauffman, claimed that he wasn’t depressed, rather his suicide was the direct result of a vindictive prosecution and prosecutor out to make a name for himself. Perhaps it was something more than that. Perhaps less.

Aaron was arrested in January 2011. We see his clear image on a camera placed in a cupboard at MIT. He’d been playing cat and mouse downloading articles from JSTOR, avoiding their paywall, and saving them. His purpose for this remains unclear. But he had previous. He had downloaded a cache of medical journal’s research papers and shown a clear line between pharmaceutical firms and the authors of articles in prestigious journals. The implication being what you pay for is what you get. He also showed the commercial link between court records and the company providing this service for a fee was a lucrative scam. Those with money could and would pay. Those without would be relegated to a substandard form of justice which prejudiced the inherent rights to a fair trial. He helped set up a software system were public documents could be copied and accessed. Perhaps his greatest success was mobilizing support to prevent internet censorship explicit in legislation the Stop Online Piracy Act going through the Houses of Congress. This is the equivalent of stopping and re-directing a fully-laden oil craft tanker with quant poles used by barges. One of his two brothers remember FBI agents driving up to their house to check if Aaron was in and driving away again. Aaron was a remarkable man the ‘go-to’ man for news agencies wanting media friendly and savvy commentary on internet affairs.

Aaron was also a precocious child. His family were rich enough and middle-class enough to make extensive home movies. Even as a toddler its clear how articulate Aaron was. His elder brother talks about Aaron wanting to teach him algebra. The child had an inquisitive questing mind that wanted to know how things work. He found his nemesis in computer code. He could write and programme as easily as kids could play ball. We see the half-pint Aaron addressing a roomful of adults. He wasn’t so much their equal as their better. He co-designed tools such as RSS and Markdown. His coding prowess made possible the sharing of many of the images we take for granted such as the one I accessed ten minutes ago in IdeasTap. Creative Commons gives copyright law to ordinary people, not to make money but to share ideas. Aaron dropped out of Stanford and with three others developed the site Reddit. They sold it for millions. Aaron had $1 million. Traditional storylines show young go-getters turning that million into $100 million, or more, and being successful. Aaron was smarter than that. He wanted to do something useful with his life and it cost him his life.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole