Friday, December 31, 2004
2004: The Art of Navigation
Is this some kind of stupid experiment or what?
There's the rapture of arrival: a reconfiguration of senses, co-ordinates, and horizons. It's all contained on a 0.85-inch, 2-gigabyte hard-drive. The (re)quest for simplicity, and something more discrete: erasure of function and relations. Things, even processes, are ultra-tactile, so hardly register. The stars are milky, if taut.
Instinct is a rather esoteric and archaic force. It reduces, in the end, to belief, which is not the same as faith: you have faith in material science but believe in physical chemistry.
There's the succor of progress and the seduction of process, for example: FOLED displays, futures trading in plastics, gene therapy.
GPS microchips keep us on track so we never get lost again. Iris, DNA and brainwave scanners preclude disappearance and disguise. We're tracked and kept intact. It's all done for us.
I go everywhere with my nanobots. I've never felt better.
The Millau Viaduct and Burj Dubai embody the extent, and triumph, of human aspiration, confidence, vision. We stand beneath them, eyes wide with wonder like children, staring up at columns of steel, glass, aluminium and iron, and above that, constellations and satellites.
The Greatest Show is Planet Earth.
What year is it anyway?
Alpha males chase desert sun, bright corners in Gulf cities, the shimmer of black gold. A mirage edging out of the frame.
No, wait! There's a new script! Read this instead...
Vassal dictatorships will crumble. There'll be a Riyadh spring. The gunships have arrived at last.
But the OPEC cartel can no longer control global oil markets as Saudi swing capacity diminishes due to neglect. The klepto-monarchy weakens in the face of Clerical Wahabbism, Global Terror Inc., the domestic reform sector. Sino and Russo-Saudi deals offer precarious solutions.
Well, ok, so there's a few minor details to take into consideration.
A spew of AK-47 fire from the North Western Frontier Province and Operation Mountain Storm smashes into Waziristan like a hurricane or, at least, a tornado. Special forces rip through Khost and the Khugan Valley, Pakistani jets strike mountain villages and guerrilla hideouts, proxy armies desert en masse. Troops pound the interior and flush out Chechens, Uzbecks, and local tribesmen.
That was no blockbuster, boys.
For our part, it was time to execute our plan. Opposition movements to the occupation were already organised. Our strategy was not improvised after the regime fell.
From the Ottomans to Hussein gangsters to US gunships and armored divisions. A tradition maintained, implodes: Salafi radicals in a military conurbation ignite an arc of fire and watch it rage with satisfaction.
There is no middle way for Americans...it is victory or holocaust.
Operation Phantom Fury sacks Falluja. White phosphor grenades and napalm and cerosin bombs rip up residential blocks: the flames cannot be drowned, the smog is toxic. Agitation, from Kirkuk to Baghdad to Basra, strikes like a storm of meteorites. There's no way to escape: the problem will solve you in seconds.
This'll be complex.
Falluja bleeds into al-Anbar, Mosul, Samarra.
No, we don't have weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, we have more than 50 million conventional weapons.
The Orient is in ferment, torn up, and tenacious; the Occident ascendant but fatally divided. You think we could have a serious conversation now? Do you think we could stop and talk, finally?
All the assumptions upon which this project is based have collapsed like a house of cards. You say you burned the pack. To what end?
There are two visions in conflict, and the focus, right now, is sharp: Europe, or Oblivion. There will be no neo-Caliphate: just scorched earth Warrior State Shells under constant barrage by the forces of Crusader-Zionism.
How would you like to be crushed?
Look, we're letting you choose.
Someone got up and said it's arrogant of us to impose our values on the Arab world, and an Arab got up and said it's arrogant of you to say these are your values because they are universal values.
Dungeons operational again.
You know, if you really look at these pictures...I mean I don't know if it's just me but it looks like anything you'd see Madonna or Britney Spears do on stage.
Jess Franco's Abu Ghraib. Home movies of Beslan. A tsunami caught on camcorder. Photos attached, as promised...
Turn off your vision.
Maps trap us; borders ensnare. Walls are built to preserve things: life, security, strategy, purity.
West Bank and Gaza Messianists, in defiance of Sharon and the State, plan to resurrect the epicenter, preempt prophecy. A red heifer on the Temple Mount: the theo-logic of Armageddon.
Hezbollah drones hover in Israeli skies and then disappear again.
Holy Books with split spines. Destiny has its own design.
The great game of defiance and nobility: sacrifice, redemption, security of data.
We have a way of life to enhance.
This is serious.
Luxury quotas increase accordingly.
Enticing voyages at luxury's zenith: all whims anticipated, all details covered. The potency of a 266 bhp flat-six boxer engine. Watches, handbags and hip-flasks from Aspreys. Fabulous jewels. Invitations to exclusive parties. Secret red tags for the VIP room. Small talk with icons.
Maxmara discovered Agostino Ciampelli frescoes on the site of their new store in Florence. Founder Achille Maramotti felt that, "it may take up floor space in terms of selling, but it is more important to fill people with knowledge and beauty than sell an extra coat."
Pakistani arms dealers, Saudi princes, Russian prostitutes and Puff Daddy (the Bungalo 8 crowd) spotted on Paul Allen's new boat, Octopus, during the Saint Tropez season.
Jenna Bush sank a $250 bottle of vodka at Caves du Roy. There was Tyco on trial and Marck's Vioxx debate. And the demise of Martha Stewart: 5 months in a West Virginia prison (Catherine Deneuve said to Dominic Dunne, "I'm glad you stood up for her").
Already looking to the future, Stewart intends to revive her daily homemaking show late next year, this time with a live audience and celebrity guests.
CEO-Investor symbiosis: everything but the elements at their mercy. La poetenza e nostra. La potenza e stata sempre la nostra.
The futures markets have co-opted fate.
The new mantra reads thus: Time, Distance, Wealth, Transparency. Information drizzles down to the lowest rungs, but so corrupted as to retain limited, if any, value. Truth has never been more manipulative, or manipulated. Encryption is ideology.
Selective mirrors and short, sharp stabs of the conscious mind, like cold water in the face, virtually erase empathy and sincerity. I became enamored of power.
Porn starlets didn't want war, like any business.
What's in it for us?
I don't want to be known as the granddaughter of the Hiltons. I want to be known as Paris.
Employ irony to stave off feeling and remain invulnerable. We learn to trust liars: next, we rely on lies. A friend of liars and philistines, yet a lover of freedom.
It was Yana Cova's year: beneath paint-stripping sunlight, above LA.
She explained the quality of vice in an Alaskan lynx coat and silk harem pants. Strained laughter, some violins, some bitter chocolate, some other things. "After the party the brothers threw caviar leftovers into the sea."
Miss Peretz, this is serious.
Getting a table in here can entail a bribe of, say, $3000. Money alone can't clinch it. "There are lots of guys with a zillion dollars who can't get a seat." Why? "Why? Because there's a hundred other guys with a zillion dollars!"
But that's just impulse spending. Introduce me, she says.
Alright, here's another multi-billionaire, and here's somebody else who's beautiful and has an amazing mind and is an incredible person.
Is there anybody here who's unremarkable?
Did I say something wrong?
She was frosty, insincere, and unflinching, which made her more honest than most. It was hardly even, however, the apex of decadence, or style, or brains.
Her eyelids closed like steel shutters.
Love is a circuit, I learnt.
Investment agreements signed in the margins. Prototypes have already been launched in Japan and South Korea. We could at least retain the option of capitulation. As ever (I say, however) seduced by the glistening skyline and a sour smile.
I smoke to stay sane and slim and skittish. But I want to escape. I want wars that end wars. I want skyscrapers. I want Claudia Cardinale. I don't want Henry Kissingers. I want Hollywood back. Not tactical nukes.
I think we still have time to deploy our own drones.
I think there's still time to fix things.
You know, there could be.
'2004: The Art of Navigation'
Cast, in no order, or guarantee, of appearance: George W. Bush, Ayman al-Zawihiri, the Sunni Triangle (Iraq), Martha Stewart, Catherine Deneuve, Dominic Dunne, Paul Wolfowitz, Queen Rania al-Abdullah, Achille Maramotti, Rush Limbaugh, Yana Cova, Paris Hilton, Sonia Ghandi, the House of Saud, Richard Perle & David Frum, Jenna Bush, Puff Daddy, Evgenia Peretz, Paul Allen, Hamid Karzai
Citta Product, 2004. All rights revoked.
Monday, December 06, 2004
When the Red Brigades kidnapped Italian President Aldo Moro in 1978, they didn't expect Moro's Christian Democrats and the Communist Party and the Vatican to refuse any form of dialogue with them. Neither did Moro. The State and Church response - "kill him if you want: we will not negotiate terms" - came as a nasty shock to captors and captured alike. (You can read the story here.)
It was the Red Brigades' grand gesture, and, ultimately, it was suicidal. The story is depressing for reasons other than the cruelty of it and its futile conclusion. For example, this squalid and confused Red Brigades operation, their ultimate operation, revealed the corruption and desperation of the European Left at the end of the decade. It was losing and it was lost: the Red Brigades' failure to mobilise the Italian proletariat behind BR (or any) banners, and their inability to compromise the State, pointed to the decline of the Left as a motivating and politically humane and attuned force.
In tandem with this, it exposed the blank machinations of power, to which Moro was sacrificed. Moro wrote, in one of his many letters to family, friends and party: "What makes you suppose that the State would go to rack and ruin if, once in a while, an innocent man survives and, in exchange, another goes into exile instead of going to prison? This is what it all amounts to." (Moro suspected the application of political pressure by the US or Germany.) It became evident to the President, as it did to the Brigades, that the State had deemed their mutual elimination to be expedient - Moro being held responsible for the "grand compromise" between the Christian Democrats and the Communist Party, the result of his controversially brokered coalition.
And yes, it's depressing because, in this story, there's so very little to redeem, on behalf of the State or its underside. So the good thing about Marco Bellocchio's film Buongiorno, Notte is the attempt to redeem something: Moro's dignity maybe, or the mental disorder of the BR terrorists as their operation unraveled. Bellocchio's film also conveys, with an austere sobriety that carefully calibrates the tug of extreme fear and extreme self-control, the sudden dependence of Moro on his captors, and vice versa. In one scene, they agree to listen to a letter he's written to the Pope: he asks if they like it or can suggest improvements (it makes one of them cry).
This is often seen, in Leonardo Sciascia's The Moro Affair for example, as the President's tragedy. Bellocchio is brave because he shows the four Red Brigade actors as slaves to events they cause but cannot control, and self-imposed ideology that determines action and reaction. They resort to increasingly demented ideological contortions to justify the act, as its repercussions intensify, and residual human instinct gnaws away (the historical resonance lies in the Red Brigades real life split over Moro's murder).
Chiara, played by Maya Sansa, is the centre of this drama. Her rigid-faced enactment of duty embodies the dry, mundane, half-dead nature of the Red Brigades' condition: the pathological investment of faith and its limits, elimination of debate and dissent, and suppression of sensuality. This sombre, fierce conviction is softened, or compromised, by reflexive flashes: Bellocchio uses Sansa's smile to sparse but dazzling effect.
Bellocchio ends his film before Moro's assassination. The President's corpse was found in a red Renault 4 on Via Caetini in Rome, half way between the offices of the Christian Democrats and the Communist Party. Pointless to even include this pointless conclusion.
Buongiorno, Notte (Marco Bellocchio, 2003)