Archive for September, 2008

25
Sep
08

WM3 – Rule 37

So, it continues.  You can see the Jonesboro news report of Jason Baldwin entering court to try and prove that his attorney’s didn’t try to the best of their abilities to defend their client.  Apparently it’s a very tricky one to prove, but we have to keep hoping that SOMETHING works for the boys.

You can see the video of Jason arriving at the courtroom here: http://www.kait8.com/global/story.asp?s=9061681

You can also read Will Carter’s daily blog from the courtroom here: http://www.kait8.com/Global/link.asp?L=343251&nav=menu67_1

Keep up to date with proceedings here: http://wm3.vox.com/

And everyone: pray, meditate, send good vibes, hope, or whatever you can do … just to get these guys some real justice.  Because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about here.  Regardless of whether you believe they are innocent or not, they did NOT receive fair trials.

24
Sep
08

documentaries, norma khouri, lies and the creative treatment of actuality

At the moment I’m watching a documentary called True Stories: Forbidden Lies – about Norma Khouri. It’s an Australian documentary about a book written by Ms Khouri that she presented as truth, about a friend of hers who was killed in an honour killing. Apparently it’s all bollocks [to be SO colloquial]. The argument that appears to be going on is that Khouri is saying how she’s helped women to escape the regime of Jordan – however – there are women from Jordan who are trying to explode the lies, are ‘sick to death’ of being ‘wrongly portrayed’ in the media. At first, I thought, regardless of whether the book was a fabrication or not, she was helping people. But looking at the women of Jordan, they seem very happy with who they are and their freedom. I’m not sure, I don’t know enough about it. Apparently ‘honour killings’ are still occurring and that there are women who help them – so does it matter if it’s a invention?

Hmmm … I do find documentaries absolutely compelling. I’d much rather watch a documentary than a feature film any day. When I taught A Level Media Studies, I did a unit on documentary. Some students enjoyed it, others hate d it. But I got so passionate about ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ that occurs in documentaries, that I didn’t really care whether they enjoyed it or not! Ha ha … actually that’s not true. I tried to make sure that I included documentaries that they would enjoy watching . My part of our HOOGE DVD library is mainly documentaries – for some reason – the more depressing the better! Ha ha … actually that’s not true … but I do find them really exciting! Students used to moan that they could never watch another wildlife documentary again after I’d taught them – they’d constantly be looking for animorphious references.

So, while I’m writing this, I thought I’d give you my documentary recommendations:

Capturing the Friedmans – Quite a compelling documentary created using interviews and archive footage from The Friedmans’ own tapes. The father and youngest son were accused of child abuse – and the documentary shows the collapse of the family through their own eyes. They taped all their conversations, arguments, trials and tribulations. It’s a tough watch, but worth watching simply because of the way in which they have compiled the documentary and the story itself. In some ways it’s like watching an extended version of The Jerry Springer Show – which isn’t the best recommendation – however I do totally recommend it as a completely compelling story.

Aileen – By one of my favourite documentary film makers – Nick Broomfield. There are two documentaries about Aileen Wournos, the female serial killer who killed her ‘John’s’ and was eventually executed for the crimes. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen ‘Monster’ with Charlize Theron? She played Aileen Wournos (very well in fact) and if you watch the documentaries AND the film, you will really really wonder what the fuck is wrong with the USA (if you’re not wondering already) that they could execute a mentally unstable woman. Heartbreaking.

Paradise Lost I and II – You may have seen me mention the West Memphis Three on Facebook before – these documentaries are about them. The first documentary was commissioned by HBO when they heard about three teenage ‘metallers’ in Arkansas who had been accused of the ritualistic killings of three 8 year old boys. The first documentary is compelling as you really are not completely sure whether the three boys did commit the murders – however – when Berlinger and Sinofsky returned for Paradise Lost II, they approached it with the belief that the boys were innocent. Honestly, you HAVE to watch these documentaries – if you don’t watch the documentaries at least go to the website: www.wm3.net. I cannot believe that Damien Echols is STILL on death row, he was put there when he was 18, when I was 18, and he’s still there. All this life I’ve lived, and he’s been locked away for something I’m 99.9% sure he didn’t do [there always has to be slight doubt doesn’t there?].

One Day In September – A film by Kevin McDonald about ‘Black September’ – the Palestinian group who held Jewish athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games, and then killed them [Munich – by Stephen Spielberg is about the apparent Mossad hunt to take revenge on the terrorists]. The documentary is edited like a thriller. Even though you know the outcome, you are still caught up in the roller coaster ride. What is most gripping is the absolute inadequacies of the Germans in dealing with the situation. They were SO desperate to show that they were no longer the heavy-handed force that they once were during the war that they behaved ineffectually.

Touching From A Distance – Another documentary by Kevin McDonald – instead of relying on archive footage and interviews for this one – he staged re-enactments and interviews with the protagonists to move the story along. I really think that Kevin McDonald is an awesome documentary film-maker – he really knows how to grip his audience. This film is about two guys who tried to climb the Sierra Madre in Peru [I think that’s what it’s called] – and had an accident. I won’t go into the whole story – in case you do watch it – but again – COMPLETELY compelling. The characters are wholly uncompassionate but you can’t help wanting to know their stories.

DIG! – I LOVE this documentary so much – it just makes me laugh – especially the line ‘You broke my fucking sitar man’ [not sure I’ve quoted this entirely correctly but you get the idea]. This documentary was filmed over 9 years, charting the successes and collapses of the bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. As you probably know, The Dandy Warhols became fairly successful [especially in the UK] whereas The BJM imploded due to their insanity and ‘creative differences’. However, I definitely prefer BJM compared to the Dandies, they should have been SO much bigger, but the lead singer, Anton is a complete mentalist! You HAVE to watch this, even if you don’t like the music, because it’s just so fascinating.

Ok – some other documentaries (without my blurb):

* Grizzly Man

* Dogtown and Z-Boys

* Dark Days

* Supersize Me

* Manufacturing Dissent [watch in conjunction with any Michael Moore documentaries – I still like Michael Moore but the guy definitely takes ‘the creative treatment of actuality’ to its full degree]

* Nanook of the North [probably the first feature length documentary ever made]

* Courtney and Kurt

* Tupac and Biggie

* Murderball

* Jesus Camp

Any documentary by Jon Ronson – my favourite journalist.

J

Well there you go, the Polly guide to the world of documentaries J I’m always looking for new ones to watch so if you have any recommendations, let me know!

I’ve now got about another hour of this documentary about Khouri to watch – it’s intriguing. I’m not sure if she’s full of shit or not. She’s said that obviously a lot of the story is fabricated to ‘protect the innocent’ – and she ‘doesn’t want her [her friend who was killed] real name going public’ – however – if you’re desperate to prove that you’ve spoken the truth and to avenge the woman’s death then do it. Then be truthful. Surely? I guess I don’t understand the situation in Jordan. Now the woman is saying that the killing happened 8 years later – so it’s completely fucked up. I really don’t understand what is going on with this woman – it’s sad that she’s exploiting something so personal and painful for some people – and there seems to be little proof to her story. Hmmmmmmmm. I can go online for free after midnight so I’ll have to look up some more about this when I can.

Hmm, ok, now the woman who started the campaign against the writer, has just said that the ‘arabs’ who committed the September 11th atrocities were [in HER quote marks] “evil” – ie: suggesting that they weren’t. She said the same about Saddam Hussein – I’m sorry – but they WERE evil. I’m not saying that the Western world isn’t evil but the bombers and Hussein WERE evil. Sorry – I’m giving you a blow by blow account of this documentary and you’ve probably seen it! –

Iactually think this woman is quite mental. She’s said that if she returns to Jordan her father would kill her – but they’ve just interviewed her with the father – and he seems fine. He said that he was strict … but he doesn’t seem like the potential murderer that she said he is.

Well – I didn’t know what to think at the end of the documentary. In fact, was I really meant to come to a conclusion? The interviewer/ film-maker seemed to get very angry with Khouri, and the ending was most interesting – by using a very, seemingly elaborate backdrop, they showed up the sham of the ‘talking heads’ part of the documentary – suggesting perhaps that everyone enjoys playing with reality????? Quite interesting.

23
Sep
08

sarah palin baby name generator

ah well – one has to doesn’t one? i absolutely love mine, COMMANDO COALFIRE PALIN. You can get your own here: http://politsk.blogspot.com/2008/09/sarah_13.html

Honestly, has one woman caused SUCH a storm in the internet world?  WordPress is simply overflowing with blogs about this woman.  The election now seems to be about women and not policies – thankfully it’s not my country – thankfully we have a man with no personality in power!!!

23
Sep
08

gordon f**king ramsey, da yoot of today and crappy day time tv

Well so far I haven’t exactly used my ‘days off’ to their full advantage – I was sick last week, and I’m sick this week.  In fact, unfortunately, I’m going to have to take ANOTHER day off because I’m still feeling REALLY rough.  A trip to the doctors is required today I think.  I feel sick, keep going hot and cold (and waking up bathed in sweat but shaking with cold), my throat hurts and I just want to sleep ALL the time (apart from now, when I woke up because I was wheezing).  BLAH.

 

            So, now, I have time to sit and blather J

 

Last night we were watching Hell’s Kitchen USA.  For some bizarre reason, the majority of programmes we watched last night were about food (Best British Dish, Masterchef Professionals 2008, Hell’s Kitchen USA and The Restaurant).  I don’t really like Gordon Ramsey, in fact, I think the guy is an obnoxious, arrogant prick who doesn’t deserve a career simply based on the fact that he can swear in peoples’ faces.

 

Ok, consider this.  Over the past few years, the media has continually criticised young people for their aggressive attitudes etc.  At the same time, they continue to give Gordon Ramsey television programmes, interviews and book deals.  Basically saying that it’s ok to swear (and I’m not talking the odd expletive, I’m talking about about the time), it’s ok to get into someone’s face and call them a “f**king idiot”, it’s ok to abuse and embarrass someone. What sort of message is this sending?  That all of this is fine.  That it’s fine to be abusive and rude.  That it’s fine to put someone down.  That it’s fine to embarrass and humiliate someone publicly. THEN, they wonder why young people mimic this behaviour and are shocked when they discover that this is NOT acceptable.

 

DON’T GET ME WRONG – I’m not a prude.  For fucks sake, I have a potty mouth; around my adult friends!  IN PRIVATE.  Not in front of young people and children.  I don’t revel in embarrassing and humiliating people (although I don’t deny that in the classroom occasionally I single people out – and I’m not saying that is right – I’m just saying that I admit I have done it).

 

It’s not just Gordon Ramsey though, it’s as though it’s an epidemic amongst presenters on UK television.  Simon Cowell (who seems like a pussy cat in the shadow of Mr Ramsey) is continuously portrayed as a pantomime villain, something adults can obviously see through, however a lot of young people can’t.  Consider also, Anne Robinson in The Weakest Link; the phrase actually being used by students in the classroom to humiliate young people who answer incorrectly. 

 

Ok, now I’m coming across as a REAL prude.  I know young people aren’t entirely stupid – and that television shouldn’t be censored just in case someone is affected by it in a negative way.  However, why the hell has Gordon Ramsey got a career?  The guy is completely VILE.  So VERY VILE.

 

Talking of vile, I can’t sleep as I’m typing this, so I’m flicking through the channels.  Mainly watching South Park but it’s on the break, so I flicked over to Jeremy Kyle.  This man is just horrible.  Where on earth did he get his god complex from?  Who gave him the ‘voice of reason’ job?  He’s just utterly obnoxious – and apparently they’re giving him the job of ‘tidying up’ the country’s streets.  Like ‘yobs’ (to use their type of word) will listen to him.  They think he’s a joke! As long as you say ‘yes’ to him and agree with everything he says so he gets his moment of glory in front of the cameras you could get away with doing anything.  The guy doesn’t care about society! If there weren’t any problems in society he wouldn’t have a bloody job!  So he loves the fact that society is falling apart around him, so he can get his metaphorical brush and dustpan and clean it up.

 

I find the majority of reality tv ‘talk shows’ oddly mesmerising.  Perhaps it’s reassuring for yourself realising that however bad your life is, nothing could be as bad as their lives.  I just don’t understand:

1) why people want to air their ‘dirty laundry’ in public

2) why people want to go and watch the airing of the dirty laundry

3) why intelligent people like me watch such bollocks

 

When M and I first got together, I’d never had cable/ satellite television.  He introduced me to the wonders of Jerry Springer (this was over 11 years ago!) – he even used to tape episodes for us to watch and laugh over.  For a while it didn’t occur to me that most of the guests were probably actors, however, a moment of ‘enlightenment’ revealed to me that honestly; are they for real?  If they are, I find it immensely depressing.  I flicked over yesterday and a couple of women were fighting over a man.  Everytime a bell was run, they fought.  WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE THESE?  That they are controlled by the bell on a reality tv show?  How bloody depressing.

 

            Maury also seems to get the lion’s share of women who have NO idea who the father of their children is!  His obsession with paternity tests further compounds the message that women who sleep around are sluts; because if a child is conceived then obviously there are wider consequences.  I must admit to being fascinated by the woman who had had at least 20 men onto the show; usually around 3-5 at a time, to have a DNA test. And STILL she didn’t find out who was the father.  Honestly – can you really sleep with THAT many men in the short time period required to fall pregnant?  Which obviously makes the audience start thinking that perhaps, you are indeed, a prostitute!  Nooooooooooooo, the pariah of the good and just.  It’s just downright depressing.  It really is (again?).  But I continue to secretly turn over to watch. 

 

When I was off sick, (with depression – ironically) I watched Maury almost obsessively.   I think their desperate lives seemed to make mine seem quite normal and sane.  Then it started to depress me even more that I could not fathom why I WAS depressed – when these people were living such horrendous lives (in my white-middle-class-anti-depressant-fuelled-ivory-tower). 

 

            These types of shows rely on the working-classes and un-educated to survive.  It makes us middle-classes seem safe in our fucked up lives, believing that the way we carry out our lives is good and true and right.  As long as we’re drinking every night in All Bar One and shagging fellow office workers, and not downing 10 cans of lager and shagging our girlfriend’s mother, we’re ok.  As long as we’re snorting cocaine in night-club toilets and not sparking up a crack pipe – we’re alright – by the way – I am NOT saying that I shag work colleagues in All Bar One toilets on drink and drug-fuelled nights!

 

            The amount of times I’ve said to people that I’d like to hide away and live in a cave is becoming more like reality.  I am honestly beginning to not only find the world around me quite depressing and sad, but this is further compounded by how crap I am. 

 

            However, there are days when I ‘love the world’.  When I have faith in it and myself.  When I realise that things aren’t quite as bad as I thought, and that as long as I have my family, my friends and my health (debateable) then I’m ok.  Anything’s possible. 

 

            I’m determined that this recent illness (which people at work have been dropping like flies with) won’t send me into the depths of the big ‘D’ again.  That it will be a one-off.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

12
Sep
08

West Memphis Three, Into the Wild and Insomnia

Every once in a while I’m reminded of how fucking lucky I am.  After the recent developments in the WM3 case, I’ve been re-reading up about the case.  I always need to do this as I tend to do a blitz on everyone and then people quiz me about the case and I get all befuddled and confused.

I always knew that Margaret Cho was a supporter as she’d submitted some writing to a book in support of the boys – The Last Pentacle of the Sun, along with Stephen King and Clive Barker.  She also worked tirelessly to get Damien Echol’s book, Almost Home – My Life Story published.  I have both books and I highly recommend them.  I’ve even used chapters from Almost Home with my students to spark discussion and writing.

I then read up on her blog about when she met the boys – you can read it here.  It is really heartbreaking that it was written in 2004 – and we’re still no further ahead it feels. The blog is one of the most personal accounts you could read.  It brought tears to my eyes.  Again, remembering that Damien is the same age as me, and is locked up, with only a faint hope of freedom.

What saddens me most is that there are 6 victims in this crime.  Those poor 3 boys who were brutally murdered, and the 3 boys whose lives were taken by the ‘justice’ system.

_________________________________________

There are times when you take a stock of how you’ve been living your life. Obviously the WM3 case makes you realise how precious your freedom actually is.

We watched Into The Wild this weekend.  Although I didn’t finish watching it [to tell you the truth, it was too wanky and long for me! – I don’t suffer pompous shite well] I enjoyed most of what I saw [although I found the character quite unpalatable – I wonder if he really was like that in real life?].  And again, it makes you think about the life you live.  Why do I have all this shit?  I look around my study and it’s just FULL of stuff.  STUFF, stuff I don’t need, stuff I don’t really want, and stuff I don’t even remember acquiring.  But when I go to throw it out, I feel torn.  I’m a hoarder – I always have been. I come from a family of hoarders.  Maybe it’s growing up with very little money, it makes everything precious to you.  Nothing is ‘throw-away’, everything is important and precious.  However, the clear-out must begin at some point – when I don’t know.  But soon.

__________________________________

Can’t sleep!

Going to try now though!

x

11
Sep
08

No New Trial For The West Memphis Three

I’ve been following this case for quite a few years now, ever since NME first mentioned it.  Then when Paradise Lost Parts 1 and 2 were released, my interest in the case was invigorated again.

There’s no point in me trying to outline the case when you can find all of the information here , the website is full of interesting and thought provoking notes from the cases – although it obviously supports the case for the release of Damien, Jesse and Jason – it allows you to make up your own mind.

But for a quick resume of the situation – here’s the brief outline from the website:

Shortly after three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, local newspapers stated the killers had been caught. The police assured the public that the three teenagers in custody were definitely responsible for these horrible crimes. Evidence?

The same police officers coerced an error-filled “confession” from Jessie Misskelley Jr., who is mentally handicapped. They subjected him to 12 hours of questioning without counsel or parental consent, audio-taping only two fragments totaling 46 minutes. Jessie recanted it that evening, but it was too late— Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were all arrested on June 3, 1993, and convicted of murder in early 1994.

Although there was no physical evidence, murder weapon, motive, or connection to the victims, the prosecution pathetically resorted to presenting black hair and clothing, heavy metal t-shirts, and Stephen King novels as proof that the boys were sacrificed in a satanic cult ritual. Unfathomably, Echols was sentenced to death, Baldwin received life without parole, and Misskelley got life plus 40.

For over 14 years, The West Memphis Three have been imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Echols waits in solitary confinement for the lethal injection our tax dollars will pay for. They were all condemned by their poverty, incompetent defense, satanic panic and a rush to judgment.

Today, I was saddened, but not surprised to hear that Judge Burnett has denied a request for a retrial.

Damien is about the same age as me.  He’s been in jail, on death row since I left sixth form.  When I think about my life, what I’ve done, what I’ve experienced, and then I think of him, and Jason and Jesse, and I wonder how they’ve managed to stay sane.  Knowing that they are innocent of these awful crimes, yet having to live the majority of their lives in prison.

Here’s the message that was posted on the WM3 email list:

By Jill Zeman
Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK (WHBQ FOX13 myfoxmemphis.com) –A circuit court judge Wednesday rejected claims that new DNA evidence proves the innocence of three men convicted of killing three boys 15 years ago, and denied their requests for a new trial.

Circuit Court Judge David Burnett issued a 10-page order Wednesday denying requests for a new trial. Lawyers for Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley — known by supporters as the “West Memphis Three” — had requested a new trial, arguing that new DNA evidence clears their clients.

Both Baldwin and Misskelley claim their lawyers failed to adequately represent them during their separate trials. Their lawyers also say DNA evidence provided by Echols’ defense team shows the men did not kill Steven Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore.

“The court finds that (Echols’s) DNA-testing results are inconclusive because they do not raise a reasonable probability that he did not commit the offenses; that is, they are inconclusive as to his claim of actual innocence,” Burnett wrote in the order.

In his appeal, Echols argued that newly analyzed DNA found no trace of him, Misskelley or Baldwin at the crime scene. But Burnett said he agreed with prosecutors’ arguments that the absence of DNA didn’t equal innocence.

“Proof of actual innocence requires more than his exclusion as the source of a handful of biological material that is not dispositive of the identity of a killer,” Burnett wrote.

Burnett also said that even if he agreed that the new DNA evidence should be heard in court, he would deny Echols’ request for a trial because there was “not compelling evidence that he would be acquitted.”

Police found the three boys’ bodies in a drainage ditch a day after their May 5, 1993, disappearance. A month passed before police arrested the three teens. Misskelley told investigators how he watched Baldwin and Echols sexually assault and beat two of the boys as he ran down another trying to escape.

A separate jury gave Misskelley a life-plus-40-year sentence for the killings. Baldwin received a life sentence without parole, and Echols was sentenced to death.

U.S. District Court Judge William R. Wilson Jr. ruled in November that claims about the DNA evidence first needed to be heard in state courts. The Arkansas Supreme Court has upheld their convictions.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
09
Sep
08

only anarchists are pretty

While I was on holiday, I read an article in The Observer (I think) about Damien Hirst and Malcolm Mclaren.  Apparently, the artist, with his many many millions for suspending mutilated animals in formaldehyde, has started collecting original punk clothing items.  Specifically, ones sold through Mr McLaren’s and Dame Westwood’s SEX shop.  However, Mr Hirst is apparently upset that when he asked MM around to look at his collection, MM declared many to be fake!  MM was very upset about this, as was DH.  Which actually made me laugh quite a lot.

Consider this, what is the PUNK ethic?

“In its original nature, the punk culture has been primarily concerned with individual freedom, which tends to create beliefs in concepts such as individualism, anti-authoritarianism, anarchism and free thought. Punk ideologies have often included a critical view of the world; seeing modern day societies as placing extensive limits on humanity. Punk ideologies are usually expressed through punk rock music, punk zines, independently-published literature and spoken word recordings.” (Wikipedia)

and:

“In the punk subculture, the DIY ethic is tied to punk ideology and anticonsumerism, as a rejection of the need to purchase items or use existing systems or processes.” (Wikipedia again – sorry!)

So, essentially, SEX was going against the punk ethic in the first place.

Then, in the article, McLaren is getting all upset about how someone has been creating fakes based on his and Vivienne Westwood’s designs.  HOW DARE THEY?  Isn’t McLaren the man who once said: ““Stealing things is a glorious occupation, particularly in the art world.”??????

Apparently Damien Hirst is not allowed to discuss the matter as he is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Simon Easton, the man who sold him the dodgy goods.

I’m very intrigued about this case, because it just shows what can happen when punks grow up.  A few years ago, Malcolm McLaren would laugh about someone being stung like this, but now he either sees it as a way of getting back at his ex-partner (he’s now accusing their son of creating the fakes) or he sees it as a way of ensuring his place amongst the art-world elite.

So, I guess McLaren himself has been Punked.

Further reading …

Punk Wars – The Independent




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