Today is early photographer Eadweard Muybridge‘s 182nd birthday, and Google has a doodle in recognition of his pioneering motion studies. He’s known for capturing the unperceivable details of a horse trotting, which revealed that there is a point in the motion where all four of the horse’s hooves are off the ground simultaneously, as well as for his invention of the zoopraxiscope (basically a stop-motion projector), but I think his photographs of people performing everyday actions (often nude and in front of a grid) are bizarre and compelling, especially given the Victorian cultural context.
If you’ve heard of the writer Mark Leyner, then it’s likely that you remember him as the hyper-ironic schmuck who served as the villain of David Foster Wallace’s 1993 manifesto “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” and who appeared to confirm Wallace’s thesis by fading into obscurity toward the end of the ’90s. Well, after ten years working for Hollywood, Leyner is back with a new novel, The Sugar Frosted Nutsack. This week’s New York Times Magazine features a profile of Leyner and his work:
“I never thought of what I did as ironic,” he says. “And I think that’s a fundamental mistake in David’s take on my work. I always thought of my work as being animated by a spirit of unhinged generosity. And transparency. Neither of which can be defined as irony.” He does sound slightly pained when he admits this. Not upset by the perceived attack, per se. But rather saddened that this unhinged generosity, as he puts it, could have been so seriously misunderstood.
Fresh on the heels of the Indy’s three-part special report on gambling in Rhode Island, yesterday the New York Times Magazine published an in-depth examination of the travails of Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort, one of the two major already-existing casinos in the region:
It would be easy to look at what has occurred at Foxwoods and think, Here are people who fell into money and didn’t know how to handle it. Which happens to be true. But how the casino reached this point, and the challenges its owners and operators now confront, is part of a much larger story — one involving the gradual relaxation of moral prohibitions against gambling, a desperate search for new revenue by state governments and the proliferation of new casinos across America. Casino gambling has become a commodity, available within a day’s drive to the vast majority of U.S. residents. Some in the industry talk of there being an oversupply, as if their product were lumber or soybeans.
Jeremy Scahill published an excellent article on Monday contextualizing the imprisonment of Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye. Shaye had previously revealed the United States military’s then-secret presence in Yemen in 2009, when he discovered pieces of Tomahawk missiles and cluster bombs at the site of what was supposedly an attack by the Yemeni government on an Al Qaeda training camp. The Pentagon refused to comment and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied the involvement of the U.S. Government. Later, Wikileaks would reveal internal e-mails of Yemeni officials where they joked about lying to their parliament about the United States’ role in the attacks.
Shaye also made a name for himself by gaining interviews with members of Al Qaeda, including the last known interview with American citizen Anwar Al-Awaki (before he was assassinated without due process by a secret panel of decision makers and an Attorney General with nothing but contempt for constitutionality). Shaye, however, did not support Al Qaeda in any way; in fact, he was more than willing to criticize them, questioning Al-Awaki’s support of the Fort Hood shooter, Maj. Nidal Hasan, as well as roundly condemning Al Qaeda in its methods and goals. “He is a very professional journalist,” said friend and dissident political cartoonist Kamal Sharaf. “He is rare in the journalistic environment in Yemen where 90 percent of journalists write extempore and lack credibility.” Shaye, he explains, is “very open-minded and rejects extremism. He was against violence and the killing of innocents in the name of Islam. He was also against killing innocent Muslims with pretext of fighting terrorism. In his opinion, the war on terror should have been fought culturally, not militarily. He believes using violence will create more violence and encourage the spread of more extremist currents in the region.”
In 2010, Shaye was abducted by armed Yemeni intelligence officers, put into a hood, and taken to an unknown location where he was reportedly beaten and told to end his criticism and investigation of the Yemeni and United States governments or he would be killed. On his release, Shaye went to Al-Jazeera to report on his capture — two months later, on August 6, 2010, both Shaye and Sharaf were forced from their homes and sent to secret prisons. Sharaf was released when he promised not to draw any more dissident cartoons. He maintains that the prisons they were sent to were set up by the United States as well as the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Shaye refused to give in to the government’s demands. He was beaten and tortured and held in isolation for thirty-days. His family was not told of his location until another released prisoner informed them. Scahill writes:
On September 22, Shaye was eventually hauled into a court. Prosecutors asked for more time to prepare a case against him. A month later, in late October, he was locked in a cage in Yemen’s state security court, which was established by presidential decree and has been roundly denounced as illegal and unfair, as a judge read out a list of charges against him. He was accused of being the “media man” for Al Qaeda, recruiting new operatives for the group and providing Al Qaeda with photos of Yemeni bases and foreign embassies for potential targeting. “The government filed many charges against him,” says Barman. “Some of these charges were: joining an armed group aiming to target the stability and security of the country, inciting Al Qaeda members to assassinate President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son, recruiting new Al Qaeda members, working as propagandist for Al Qaeda and Anwar Al-Awlaki in particular. Most of these charges carry the death sentence under Yemeni law.” As the charges against him were read, according to journalist Iona Craig, a longtime foreign correspondent based in Yemen who reports regularly for the Times of London, Shaye “paced slowly around the white cell, smiling and shaking his head in disbelief.”
Shaye was convicted of the terrorism charges and sentenced to five years in prison with an additional two years of restricted movement and government surveillance. As one of the only journalists to interview members of Al Qaeda, and one of a small number of important dissident journalists in the region. Shaye had access to information that the Yemeni and U.S. governments did not want made public and he was silenced.
Pressure from international human rights groups and Yemeni tribal leaders led Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to reconsider Shaye’s imprisonment, and word leaked the day before that Saleh was going to pardon Shaye on February 2, 2011. That same day, Saleh received a personal phone call from President Obama, voicing his concerns over the impending release of Shaye. The pardon was rescinded.
How many times must the president use his power to suppress dissident opinion before we release he is now different than every other slimy power-mongering floor-sucker in Washington? What will it take for American liberalism to denounce the monster it has created and ignored? Where are all the indignant congress-persons (if mold can be given the status of personhood) and celebrities and self-righteous bumper stickers who decried Bush’s extravagant violations of human rights? Guess what: you don’t have to be a republican to destroy civil liberties and stuff your greedy face with the will of the people.
Here’s a video of Rick Santorum debunking climate science: