My saved links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Movies I've watched recently:

  • Yakuza Apocalypse (2015) - IMDb 4/10

    2016-11-26 17:10
    * * * *

    This film stretches beyond a regular action film and even really dips into the true meaning of the word apocalypse, but that's the most positive thing about it. Miike has been taking some major leads from Shakespeare, considering he lived a few hundred years ago, this film is truly not very original. Having said that, it's missing in atmosphere. It doesn't pace well and lost me a bit after 30 minutes and did not win the loss back. Having been Shakespearian before that, this film segues into being laughable and filled with fight (as most films by Miike are). Not recommendable to anyone who doesn't want to dabble in martial arts action-cum-half-assed weird dreaming, having fallen asleep with "Macbeth" on your face.

    0.3
  • Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) - IMDb 1/10

    2016-11-20 21:22
    *

    David Foster Wallace once used the term "hellaciously unfunny" about something, which is a term clearly applicable for this clownboat. Not only is this a film that overflows with prejudice and crap, be it sexistic, nationalistic or racistic, but it's completely barren where jokes should be. I liked the first film. I didn't like the second film, but this one I really loathe. It shouldn't have been made.

    0.3
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016) - IMDb 4/10

    2016-08-29 09:24
    * * * *

    This film is succinctly different from most others that are about serial killers in the sense that it's using silence and music well. Apart from that, this is a b-movie in several ways: apart from the two main actors, there's not much to use. The plot is quite simple, but at times I - a serial killer fan, so to speak - drifted away because the film didn't entice me more; the flow of the film feels contrived, making me feeling something that's very different to what often comes naturally when seeing works of directors such as Terrence Malick, Woody Allen and Richard Linklater. Also, the name-dropping of serial killers and such is more effect-seeking than anything else, more about trying to spook the viewer than create solid characters. Still, as a low-budget film, it works in creating a kind of solemn street-life atmosphere, the kind that came natural to director John Cassavetes, that very few high-budget films have. All in all this is not a particularly well-made film, but it's memorable.

    0.3
  • Leap Year (2010) - IMDb 1/10

    2016-07-31 21:32
    *

    Complete. Waste. Of. Life.

    0.3
  • Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret... 8/10

    2016-07-31 17:33
    * * * * * * * *

    A sane, eye-opening view on how the production of farm animals for slaughter and food is the greatest threat to global climate, and why very few people are conversing about the issue.

    0.3

David Bowie’s “Blackstar”

stories-bowie-blackstar-main-square

I heard “Blackstar” a couple of days before the world heard of David Bowie’s death.

I think I’ve heard it about 20 times since then, and when I think of it now, I feel something warm, sad, and yet, finished; there’s a sense of conclusion and strangely enough, relief that follows in the wake of Bowie’s death, in a good way, even though that may look very weird. I’ve seldom heard the last piece of work from an artist who knew it was about to die and made me feel enormous, overwhelming and encompassing washes of something good – especially when I consider it’s David Bowie who has made this album, and died. I cannot even begin to account for what Bowie has done for me. Bowie is known for releasing masterpieces and shit – especially after the 1980s – and could just as well have released crap or nothing at all in 2016, but this is a masterpiece – not without flaws, which makes it very human to me.

From the opening track that gently delivers the listener into a dense yet spruce audial landscape – thank Bog for Tony Visconti‘s production – and the lyrics: “In the villa or Ormen, in the villa of Ormen/Stands a solitary candle“. There are many theories on this album, and most of them are actually interesting.

The album is intricate, yet simple, which goes for everything about the album, for example how people discovered that shining light on it exposes stars:

Starman. Starlight.

Also:

There’s even more.

The ultimate single, “Lazarus“, did not impact me as much as after Bowie’s death. Upon the single’s release, the video displayed a slightly harrowed Bowie as a blind prophet. Nobody alluded to death, instead of thinking that Bowie had cheated death.

Blackstar” became Bowie’s first Billboard-topping US album. It was released before he died, and the numbers came in after.

The lyrics on “Blackstar” were naturally gone through with tooth and comb after Bowie’s death. Every stone was turned and people were vastly impressed and overwhelmed with how Bowie had basically turned his forthcoming death into an event; even though he’s always been changing, this meant The End. I’ve seldom missed an artist as much as I’ve missed David Bowie. True, he’s made some really shit albums, but he’s probably one of the most important and impressive artists ever (to me). His legacy is legion.

Bowie had listened to a lot of music by Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips (among others) before writing the album, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Still, he’s always had a sense of humor, and even kind of raps on this album; just listen to “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore1.

Bowie never gave a fuck.

This album is written, performed and produced by a person who obviously knows exactly what he wants, even by letting everybody he works with have their reigns.

Bonus: if you want to see an early – actually the best, if you ask me – documentary about Bowie, I can strongly recommend “Cracked Actor“, which is available in its entirety below. I think it’s a great way to cast even more light on the Bowie that made “Blackstar“.

  1. Which is actually a title culled from a play.[back]
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Mark Thatcher: corruption and crime wander through the rich

Mark Thatcher and Margaret Thatcher
To the left: Mark Thatcher. To the right: Margaret Thatcher. In-between: BAE.

From “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade” by Andrew Feinstein; I’ve edited some for brevity. Also see the documentary that was released this year!

In 1969, Said linked with Akram Ojjeh, a Saudi arms dealer and financier. Ojjeh’s son Mansour would become a friend of Mark Thatcher while involved in their mutual passion, motor racing.

[Mark Thatcher’s] involvement in the Al Yamamah contract was originally kept secret. He now openly admits his role as an adviser on the deal but denies taking commissions. He told the Daily Telegraph in 2001:

Quite honestly, I thought I was doing this country a favour. I have never even sold a penknife. I was not paid a penny [for advising British Aerospace] but I benefited because the project led to construction in Saudi Arabia that involved my companies. But it [the Al Yamamah deal] has led me to being portrayed as an arms dealer: as if I had a catalogue of weapons. Even now I get letters from people inquiring whether I can help them sell second-hand tanks or ammunition.

On another occasion he opined: ‘if I am an arms dealer, then the chairman of British Aerospace is an arms dealer, and the Prime Minister is an arms dealer’.

It is also alleged that Said was the source of the reported multimillion-pound payment to Mark Thatcher, in order to gain access to Number 10.

Mark Thatcher has repeatedly denied the allegation that he received £12m in relation to the deal. The figure is derived from transcripts of conversations between Saudi princes and agents recorded by Saudi Intelligence while monitoring rival bids by the British, French and Americans for the deal. The transcripts were leaked by Mohammed Khiweli, the Saudi First Secretary to the United Nations, who defected in May 1994 and was granted asylum by the United States.

Howard Teicher, a Middle East expert on Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council in the 1980s, claimed: I read of Mark Thatcher’s involvement in this arms deal in dispatches from our embassy in Saudi Arabia, from intelligence reports that were gleaned in Saudi Arabia and Europe and in diplomatic dispatches from other European capitals. I considered these dispatches totally reliable, totally accurate . . . I did not think that people would loosely accuse the son of the Prime Minister of being involved in such a transaction unless they were certain it was the case, and the fact that I saw his name appear in a number of different sourced documents convinced me of the authenticity of at least the basic involvement on Mark Thatcher’s part. He was clearly playing some kind of role to help facilitate the completion of a transaction between the two governments. Teicher reaffirmed his view years later: ‘He was playing an active role in the arms transaction and it was unambiguous that he was involved in a business capacity.’

Teicher’s view was based on Khiweli’s transcripts, which confirmed that the Saudis paid Mark to utilize his ‘excellent connections with the government . . . regarding the military equipment’.

Thatcher’s closest associates confirmed his role: ‘I know for a fact that on one occasion Wafic rang Mark, who then arranged for him to fly by helicopter to Chequers to see Margaret,’ said Rodney Tyler, a friend of the Thatchers.

BAE executives at the time also confirmed Mark’s involvement and the alleged £12m commission he received. ‘Mark was useful to ensure his mother was onside’, according to a former BAE consultant and friend of Said.

A British MP was sent a document anonymously that claimed: ‘The additional financial benefits to Mark T. and his friend Wafiq Said [sic] and other middlemen, all non-tax paying residents of the UK and to the Conservative Party are absolutely enormous, according to the BAE executive.’ The authors of a book on Mark Thatcher claim that his mother was informed of Mark benefiting from the deal. Given that he was arranging meetings for her with Said and Prince Bandar, she could hardly be unaware of his involvement. And, according to Wafic Said’s former aviation director, Mark’s dealings with Said were ‘at Mrs. Thatcher’s insistence’. A former defense industry executive, Gerald James, alleges Mark also benefited from Al Yamamah-2. Mark’s benefiting from a deal in which his mother played a crucial role would come as no surprise to those who followed his career. His personal fortune has been estimated at £60m, and his mother’s assistance has not been unhelpful in its accumulation. Mark, who inherited his father’s baronetcy in 2003, pocketed payments in relation to a £300m contract to construct a university in Oman which his mother had clinched for a British construction company in 1981. When asked about it in Parliament, Margaret Thatcher denied any wrongdoing, claiming she was just ‘batting for Britain’.

The nadir of his career, however, came when he was arrested at his home in the up-market Cape Town suburb of Constantia on 25 August 2004 for his role in an attempted coup d’état in Equatorial Guinea. Thatcher was accused of providing funding and logistical support for the abortive coup planned by a British mercenary, Simon Mann, a close personal friend. After his mother’s intervention secured a plea bargain in terms of South Africa’s anti-mercenary laws, Thatcher pleaded guilty to negligence in investing in an aircraft ‘without taking proper investigations into what it would be used for’, claiming that he thought it would be used as an air ambulance in Africa. He received a fine of R3m ($450,000) and a four-year suspended sentence, and was deported. Simon Mann recently reaffirmed that Thatcher was deeply involved in the coup, providing $350,000 and ‘was not just an investor, he came completely on board and became a part of the management team’.

After the Al Yamamah deal was concluded, Mark Thatcher purchased a luxurious Belgravia flat through a Panamanian company, Formigol, which was registered to Wafic Said’s business address.

Said would often take Mark shooting or golfing on Prince Bandar’s Oxfordshire estate. Alex Sanson, a former managing director of BAE’s Dynamics Division during the Al Yamamah deal, who told the Observer that Said played a pivotal role in the transaction, commented that ‘He [Mark Thatcher] was very close to Wafic Said and Prince Bandar. A number of people were aware that he was involved. He is bad news. He was a user of people to make connections. That was his technique and with the image of his mother at the time it was a useful asset.’

Such were the benefits of Al Yamamah to Thatcher fils that some refer to the deal as ‘who’s ya mama’.

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My saved links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

I love Mondo’s vinyl reissues: “Fight Club” and “Gremlins”

Fight Club vinyl

I love Mondo. They’re kind of a toy store version of Criterion, although there’s nothing toy-y about the wondrous quality of the stuff they reissue1. They’ve reissued the Twin Peaks soundtrack which was sweet in the extreme, and now they’re reissuing the soundtrack for “Fight Club“, and the film below is just too cool. I mean, sacrifice:

Also, they’re re-releasing the soundtrack for “Gremlins“, the old 1980s film about Donald Trump’s takeover of the USA monsters terrorising a neighbourhood. It’s still basically a comedy.

In the film, Mogwai – a little furry animal that’s harmless – turn into Gremlins if exposed to sunlight, water or are fed “after midnight”. Here’s some cover art for the Mondo reissue:

gremlins_front-cover_

…and the same cover if you expose it to UV light:

gremlins_front-cover_uv-light

Here‘s more on that soundtrack.

  1. Bar the spelling mistakes on the otherwise flawless Twin Peaks reissue.[back]
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