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There is something in the accidental and arbitrary nature of amateur digital footage that seems deeply real. This accounts for its continuing power to shock. There is no room for making sense of what you are seeing, no aesthetic consideration of framing or composition—you can only look. Although the Abu Ghraib photos are paradigmatic to our conversation, it is the largely anonymous quality of amateur digital video that marks the footage. Its amateurishness heightens its authenticity and erodes the boundaries between spectator and participant. From afar, you are there, without context and commentary getting in the way. At their worst, such images appropriate the queasy aesthetics of first-person shooter video games, the camera fusing with the gun-barrel—snuff films for the joystick and Jackass era. Yet it would be foolish to dismiss such rambunctious images as simply pornographic. The power of these images lies in our perception that they best convey the chaotic reality of postmodern warfare to an audience that takes the fractured, the obscene, and the unknowable for granted. Who is killed, where, and why are no longer relevant questions. We entertain the notion that we are too sophisticated even to ask. We are looking at the war, and we are looking at ourselves looking. –“The Pleasure of Flinching,” Nicholas Sautin, Guernica
Phone lines flash six nights a week inside a dimly lit Hollywood studio where Art Laboe sits before his microphone, faithful to his old-fashioned format: playing sentimental oldies and taking dedications. For more than 50 years, his deep, soothing voice has been as cherished among Latinos in the Southwest as Chick Hearn’s rapid-fire staccato once was among Lakers fans.
Listeners with nicknames such as Mr. Porky, Lil’ Crazy, Big Papi, Bullet, Bugsy and Payasa call in from Oxnard, Riverside and Boyle Heights; from Phoenix, Albuquerque and Nevada. They are lonely women, rueful men, rapt lovers, entire families with squeaky-voiced children who ask Laboe to wish their grandmothers good night. –“At 84, Art Laboe’s an oldie but still a goodie,” Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times
p class=”center” markdown=”1″> Scenes from the coming post-racial dystopia: Harriet the Spy raps Nicki Minaj lyrics to Dawson;
a New Jersey Wal-Mart asks “all black people” to leave;
uncouth Russian diners to be drowned in bisque while suave Frenchmen make small talk
Peters’s Big Chief is beautiful in every earthly way: lovely and completely unnecessary and for its lack of necessity somehow all the more essential. Shortly after Peters finished confirming that his feathers quivered to his satisfaction, Donald Harrison Jr. swooped into the fluorescent space and greeted Peters warmly. The son of the late, great Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr., a legendary Mardi Gras chief, Harrison Jr. has carried on the tradition and become a chief himself. Peters and the production are consulting him to ensure that their portrayal of a chief is true to the truth of the thing — whatever word you can abide that means some equivalent of “mystical.” That otherworldliness was apparent as Peters — who by that time was shedding the 58 pounds of feathers in big pieces (headdress, arm-plumes, the great orange and crimsoned rear end) — began dancing and singing antiphonally with Harrison, who had donned the great feathered rear and himself begun to dance and spin and chant with Peters, Peters’s voice low and sweet, Harrison’s higher and milder, the two singing at each other as blue twilight became black night. –“The HBO Auteur,” Wyatt Mason, The New York Times Magazine
p class=”center” markdown=”1″> The NCAA tournament, from lovely to loathesome: Sobbing from NY, loud enough to be heard in Chapel Hill;
Red Staters react to Obama’s bracket;
Coach Cal, America’s most successful skel
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”