Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Scorpio Rising

"Scorpio Rising was denounced — and this was ironic — at its first screenings by some members of the American Nazi Party. They thought I was insulting their flag, which was very true, not that you see very much of it. They phoned up anonymously to the vice squad in LA and denounced it as porn or obscene or something and in those days in '64 the police had to investigate if they got a complaint. They went there and without even watching the film, they just seized it and the poor manager of the theatre was arrested and had to be bailed out. But then it went to the California Supreme Court and a famous ruling came down which applied to all films: if it has redeeming social merit then it's acceptable, and of course this label has been used for all kinds of things."

"And from Christians? You used images of Jesus as well as Nazi flags."

"I once used clips from a Lutheran Sunday School film called The Last Journey to Jerusalem. It was delivered to me accidentally while I was cutting Scorpio Rising and left on my doorstep because of a mistaken address and I just kept it and cut it into my film. It was serendipity from the 'other' powers or what ever you want to call them, not necessarily the gods but maybe the prankster gods. After the film was shown all around the country, I got a letter from the Lutherans — "Aren't you using our Sunday school film?" — and I said "Yes, it's called 'fair use'" and said, "You should be ashamed of showing this kind of cliche stuff to children. Showing a simpering Jesus is not really helpful". So much of the iconography of Christianity has become so sanitised that you wonder, who was this person way back when?"

The Quietus interview Kenneth Anger.

Monday, 29 June 2009

The Man Who Never Was

"Early in the morning on the 1st of May 1943, a fisherman on a beach in Spain discovered a waterlogged corpse which had washed ashore during the night. The dead man was clothed in British military attire and a life preserver, and he had a briefcase chained to his lifeless body. Apparently a casualty of an airplane accident at sea, the body was transported to the local port, where its discovery was reported to the Nazi officials stationed in the city of Huelva...

Wary of a ruse, German intelligence examined the officer's personal effects in great detail. His possessions included numerous benign items such as a photograph and love letters from his fiancée, a set of keys, recently used ticket stubs for a theater performance, a hotel bill, etc. A close inspection and investigation strongly suggested that these items were genuine, indicating that Major William Martin and the documents on his person were authentic. A second letter in the dead man's possession– this one from the Chief of Combined Operations to the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean– contained text indicating that Major Martin was carrying a letter too sensitive to be sent through normal channels, hence the need for him to fly.

By all appearances, the Axis powers had stumbled upon extremely valuable intelligence, unbeknownst to the Allies; a letter which indicated exactly which beaches the Axis powers would need to reinforce in order to repel the Allied invaders. The document discussed key details of "Operation Husky," a secret Allied plan to invade Nazi Europe by way of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. It also described a plan to prepare a false attack upon Sicily– the location where Germany expected the Allies to attack– as a way of drawing German forces away from the true invasion site.

Upon learning of the letter, Adolph Hitler took decisive action based on the information it disclosed. On May 12, he sent out an order: "Measures regarding Sardinia and the Peloponnese take precedence over everything else." He diverted significant defenses away from Sicily to the indicated points of hostile ingress, including an extra Waffen SS brigade, several Panzer divisions, patrol boats, minesweepers, and minelayers. But when the day of the attack came, all was relatively quiet on the beaches of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. The Germans had fallen for an elaborate deception designed to draw Nazi defenses away from the true Allied target: Sicily. Major Martin– the dead man the fisherman found on the beach– never existed..."

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Bridge

"Golden Gate Bridge officials are seething that a moviemaker who told them he was working on a "day in the life" project about the landmark was, in fact, capturing people on film as they jumped to their deaths.

Eric Steel initially told officials he planned to spend a year filming the "powerful and spectacular interaction between the monument and nature" and that his work was to be the first in a series of documentaries about national monuments such as the St. Louis Arch and the Statue of Liberty. That's how he got the Golden Gate National Recreation Area's permission to set up cameras on parkland overlooking Fort Point.

Now, however, Steel has revealed in an e-mail to bridge officials that the cameras -- which were operating almost continuously during daylight hours for all of 2004 -- filmed most of the 19 jumpers who went off the bridge last year plus a number of attempted suicides.

Apparently, that was the point all along. Steel says his goal is to "allow us to see into the most impenetrable corners of the human mind and challenge us to think and talk about suicide in profoundly different ways."

- San Francisco Chronicle

The Bridge documentary Part One (viewer discretion advised)
(Part Two)
(Part Three)
(Part Four)
(Part Five)
(Part Six)
(Part Seven)
(Part Eight)
(Part Nine)

New Yorker article.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

"Now Equal Footing Mermaids Stop"

"He drifted deep into depression, refusing to sail, and took to his logbook. As he lolled in the mid-Atlantic, Crowhurst wrote a 25,000-word treatise on time travel and divinity. He counted down his remaining hours on Earth, believing death would not only be "the mercy" but that it would transform him into a "cosmic being". On 29 June 1969, after 243 days at sea, Crowhurst made one last entry into his logbook. His self-allotted time had come. This was "the mercy" he had been praying for. His boat was found 12 days later, with logbooks recording his genuine position and grainy sound and video recordings unharmed. It has since been assumed Crowhurst took the logbook of his fraudulent positions with him as he threw himself overboard..."

Deep Water site

Drama on the Waves

Times article

"Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius"

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Monday, 15 June 2009

Kinski is Christ

"He did strange things when we were filming Aguirre 12 years ago. He wanted us to do suicidal things. but he didnt count on me. i wouldnt get trapped like the others."

- Klaus Kinski (PDF)

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek

"They're known simply as the "blue people" in the hills and hollows around Troublesome and Ball Creeks. Most lived to their 80s and 90s without serious illness associated with the skin discoloration. For some, though, there was a pain not seen in lab tests. That was the pain of being blue in a world that is mostly shades of white to black.

There was always speculation in the hollows about what made the blue people blue: heart disease, a lung disorder, the possibility proposed by one old-timer that "their blood is just a little closer to their skin." But no one knew for sure, and doctors rarely paid visits to the remote creekside settlements where most of the "blue Fugates" lived until well into the 1950s. By the time a young hematologist from the University of Kentucky came down to Troublesome Creek in the 1960s to cure the blue people, Martin Fugate's descendants had multiplied their recessive genes all over the Cumberland Plateau.

Madison Cawein began hearing rumors about the blue people when he went to work at the University of Kentucky's Lexington medical clinic in 1960. "I'm a hematologist, so something like that perks up my ears," Cawein says, sipping on whiskey sours and letting his mind slip back to the summer he spent "tromping around the hills looking for blue people."

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

"Nine young students go on a skiing holiday in Russia’s Ural Mountains but never return. Eventually, their bodies are discovered – five of them frozen to death near their tent, four more bearing mysterious injuries – a smashed head, a missing tongue – buried in the snow some distance away.

All, it seems, had fled in sudden terror from their camp in the middle of the night. Casting aside skis, food and warm coats, they dashed headlong down a snowy slope toward a thick forest, where they stood no chance of surviving bitter temperatures of around –30º C (–22º F).

At the time, seemingly baffled investigators offered the non-explanation that the group had died as a result of “a compelling unknown force” – and then simply closed the case and filed it as Top Secret."

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Nazca Lines

"The Nazca Lines are different shapes on the floor of the Nazca Desert. Some of these shapes include animals, parallel lines, and completely random lines that seem to have no purpose whatsoever. The lines can only be seen from the air, so they were not discovered until the invention of the airplane. They were first spotted when commercial jets flew over the area in the 1920’s. People had no idea what they were: some people called them “primitive landing strips”. The Nazca Lines were made by removing the top layer of earth to expose the lighter colored soil underneath."

Friday, 5 June 2009

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

"In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism."

- Gavin Bryars .

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Chronicle of Severe Days - The last film of Vladimir Shevchenko

"When, at 9:00, an engineer climbed up to the roof of the building, peered in at the wreckage and reported what he saw - a white-hot glare in a pile of rubble and billowing smoke, Bryukhanov refused to believe it.

Chiefs, directors and engineers from agencies involved in atomic energy boarded a jet to Kiev and from there took a helicopter to Chernobyl. By noon they were hovering 650 feet over the plant. Gazing into the gaping wound of pipes, girders and rubble in the central hall, they saw the lid of the reactor, cherry-red with heat, tilted up like the damper of a flue. Abandoned tangles of fire hose hung into the crater. A black circle of graphite lay a hundred yards around the plant. Though they had no radiometric equipment, it was clear they were looking at a very serious problem. They were also gaining a nice tan as the radiation seared their faces.

The cauldron below was brewing up every element and isotope in the periodic chart. As uncountable billions of neutrons shot around in chaos, they smashed into atoms, breaking them up and sending off more neutrons. Some isotopes existed for nanoseconds. Others boiled out into the sky to live for tens of thousands of years. Many of the elements and molecules, such as lead, were deadly for their chemical properties, let alone their radioactivity.

Communist Party leaders in Pripyat reported the town still calm. Teams were practicing for the May Day games. Several weddings were taking place. Fearing panic more than radiation, the leaders began to discuss the pros and cons and possibilities of evacuation. A roadblock was set up to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the town.

Firemen, unaware of that they were fighting an unquenchable atomic fire, assaulted the roof and aimed hoses into the flaming crater. They peered over the edge into the deadly abyss. Within seconds they absorbed enough radiation to kill them. They assumed that their violent nausea and overwhelming fatigue were caused by the smoke of burning chemicals. They assumed the toasted brown of their skin was from thermal heat.

The fire itself was no ordinary fire. At first, it was mostly burning tar on the roof. At some point, however, the thousand tons of graphite from the core ignited. Graphite is often used in industry because withstands temperatures in excess of 2,500 degrees centigrade. Once it starts burning, however, it is very hard to extinguish. Water turns to steam before it reaches the flames. If there happens to be a white-hot core of melted nuclear fuel nearby, the steam decomposes into hydrogen and oxygen. As the hydrogen rises away the heat, it ignites. In effect, the firemen were literally killing themselves to feed the fire.

The local defense militia was called in. Young soldiers were given gauze masks and cloth jumpsuits. And estimated 3,400 were assigned to clean nuclear fuel and graphite from the roof. They had no idea that they would be running through an environment of 10,000 to 20,000 rad per hour. They were allowed ninety seconds there, enough time to grab a chunk of something and toss it into the crater. After that minute-and-a-half shift, they could retire on a disability pension and take home a cash bonus to ease the consequences.

The world had never coped with such a disaster. No one had any idea what to do. The logical thing was to bury the fire and the tons of radionuclides that remained in the ruins of the reactor. The air force sent a fleet of helicopters. One by one they landed on the bank of the Pripyat River. Nuclear engineers, physicists and deputy ministers shoveled sand into bags as if doing penance in hell. Later they were helped by a hundred local farmers who had volunteered without knowing the kind of fire they were supposed to put out. Eventually someone thought of spreading out parachutes, filling them with sand and having the helicopters lift them by their cords.

Helicopter pilots had to fly low so the sand bombs wouldn't stir up so much radioactive material or punch through the floor of the reactor. They also dropped loads of boron, to absorb neutrons, lead, to shield the radiation, and dolomite, which would break down into carbon dioxide and help smother the flames.

The pilots and crews received radiation at a rate of several hundred rad per hour. Crew members had to lean out the doors into the upward flood of radionuclides to see when to release the loads. In a single flight they would take in several years of allowable dosage. They flew until they were too weak and nauseated to hold the controls of their helicopters."

(Glenn Alan Cheney - PRIPYAT.COM)

Monday, 1 June 2009