Sunday, February 26, 2006

Golden Gate Suicides — misrepresentation?

During 2004, a guy asked for, and got, permission from the Golden Gate Bridge authorities in San Franscisco to set up cameras which would film the bridge for the whole year.

During daylight hours, that’s whaty happened. Every single movement of the sun along the brick-red girders was recorded; every gradation of shadow and cloud stored away, the shades of the sky over the structure preserved for posterity.

As well as the people jumping off the bridge to their deaths.

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.”

“Are we angry? Absolutely,” said bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie.

“A guy this duplicitous — there must be a way to yank that stuff away from him,” said Marin County Supervisor Hal Brown, a member of the bridge district’s board. “It’s just a horrible thing to be taking pictures of.”

Interviewed for the linked article, the guy who set up the cameras has now revealed that that is really why he was filming — not to make a snuff movie but to raise troubling and very real questions about the human spirit that are framed by the bridge itself.

After all, give a city’s population something big and universally accessible to jump off, and those who want to kill themselves will use it, breaking their bones and liquefying their internal organs when they hit the water. In 2004 alone, 19 people actually jumped, and more carried out ‘cries for help’.

So how is this project of his unrepresentative of the reality of that bridge? Sure, when dealing with human death by suicide all the precautions necessary when interviewing people and editing a film should be followed. But aside from its history and appearance, the bridge is well–known for suicide. Let the guy make the film. And let him do it well.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

West 16th Street

w16 street
Originally uploaded by mmonk.
Wow. A snowstorm in the NE USA, and this is New York City. Gorgeous.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

3d optical illusions

And now for the reality...

More like this amazing installation / headfuck / here. Via the excellent things magazine.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Prophet of Doom

There aren’t quite any fatwas yet, but if there were, the above image could get the cartoonist killed. As it is, the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten has got its home country into trouble with muslim countries because it printed cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. He isn’t ever meant to be depicted visually because apparently, to do so would distract from the greatness of Allah.

It started when the paper printed the offending cartoons, and a cacophony of protest washed northwards from muslim countries and crackled over the country lanes of Jutland. The paper has had its second bomb threat in as many days.

Ambassadors from offended countries issued statements of reproach through diplomatic channels, as other European papers showed their solidarity on freedom of expression issues — by reprinting the cartoons themselves.

And then, with a sick sense of inevitability, the first diplomatic rebuke arrived from none other than Norway! Apparently Norway “understands the anger and dismay” (my italics) felt by the aggrieved states, and feels that for a Norwegian paper to reprint the cartoons is “not positive for the dialogue between different cultures and people of different religions”.

Germany’s Der Spiegel said:

But what should one call such a statement? Preventative capitulation? Suicide out of fear of death? A contribution to a multicultural life in which one side acts insulted and the other side promptly takes distance from itself? Or perhaps simply: The interplay of extortion and opportunism.

Today, at least outside of Norway, there is precious little solidarity with Jyllands Posten. The conservative daily Die Welt was the only German paper to show enough courage to reprint the caricatures. In Paris, France Soir stepped up to the occasion.
And what happened then at France Soir? Hmm. Let’s see:

Under the headline “Yes, we have the right to caricature God”, France Soir covered its front with Buddha, the Christian and Jewish deities and the Prophet all sitting on a cloud. The Christian God says: “Don’t complain Muhammad, all of us have been caricatured.”

Shortly after the paper appeared, however, its managing editor, Jacques Lefranc, was sacked. Raymond Lakah, the paper’s owner, issued a public apology: “We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication” of the cartoons, he said.

The Danish paper has now also been forced to apologise. Its editor has done so reluctantly, conceding that the forces of self-righteous indignation have won again, and predicting that nobody in Denmark will draw a cartoon of Mohammed for the next 10 years or more.

Whatever the truth of that augury, here is a page which has an article on the scandal and full-size reproductions of the cartoons. There’s a blog, called ‘Draw Mohammed Week’. MetaFilter discussion. Latest updates on this Wikipedia timeline. And finally, I’ll also support France Soir as it was before its editor was sacked, for writing this:

It is necessary to crush once again the infamous thing, as Voltaire liked to say. This religious intolerance that accepts no mockery, no satire, no ridicule. We citizens of secular and democratic societies are summoned to condemn a dozen caricatures judged offensive to Islam. Summoned by who? By the Muslim Brotherhood, by Syria, the Islamic Jihad, the interior ministers of Arab countries, the Islamic Conferences — all paragons of tolerance, humanism and democracy.

So, we must apologise to them because the freedom of expression they refuse, day after day, to each of their citizens, faithful or militant, is exercised in a society that is not subject to their iron rule. It’s the world upside down. No, we will never apologise for being free to speak, to think and to believe.

Because these self-proclaimed doctors of law have made this a point of principle, we have to be firm. They can claim whatever they like but we have the right to caricature Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Yahve and all forms of theism. It’s called freedom of expression in a secular country ...

For centuries the Catholic church was little better than this fanaticism. But the French Revolution solved that, rendering to God that which came from him and to Caesar what was due to him.

Moving on, lest I explode: lovely panoramas of New York, via Gothamist. If you live in the UK and are interested in the historical mapping of your surname, make with the clicking. The perils and pleasures of literary translation. (I once had some experience of this, and my god, it was fun. And infuriating.)

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