a wikipedia novel
"It is not an uncommon condition, this feeling of being constructed out of some ambient, floating parts of the Internet."
Chiara Brasi's film is a Wikipedia text—her plot was based on a single web search. The Web gives us The Unintended, a replenishable boon. This page will collect articles of interest to those who seek The Unintended.
CAUGHT IN A TRAP.
I imagined Virginie Brasi watching Elvis at maybe minute 3:06 in this video. As Elvis does his karate moves, shakes and sweats, with the crowd captive in his trap, and he captive in theirs, the video becomes increasingly astonishing. The song catches him in the beautiful sequined cage of his celebrity, of his sex, and of the crowd's orgasmic love. I watch this over and over again, trapped myself in my erotic response to the thrill of someone else's powerful display of desire for me—the fiction of my power, in his need to seduce.
SHALL I COMPARE ELVIS TO A LONELY POLAR BEAR?
The beauty of the scene lies in its virtuality: the observer and the observed in a single frame. The kind of subject best done with film, maybe. Anyway, hard to say in words. Like Elvis being watched by the crowd in the scene in Las Vegas, the polar bear, too, seems to me a magical, a wavering, shuddering white figure, simulacrum of a self before a crowd.
"The director says what she wants is a sense of a ghost rising from a river, a whitish impression that at first seems like sea foam, or maybe the languorous swimming of a despondent polar bear moving in figure eights in a man-made pond, or a fluttering flag of surrender, but of course it turns out to be Cassandra’s flesh, her whiteness establishing the frame."
ALI REFUSED TO GO TO VIETNAM. READ ABOUT IT.
"I AIN'T GOT NO QUARREL WITH THE VIET CONG"
"My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people. Just take me to jail."
Some more words of life's wisdom from Ali here.
EVERYTHING HAD A RHINESTONE.
The robe Elvis gave to Muhammad Ali. There are two videos on it, the second one talking about the error on the robe. Second video here.
THE CAMERA'S EYE IN THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR
The camer's eye in the Spanish-American war is boring. Long, tedious shots of a ship moving. Then suddenly a startling scene of a firing squad, and right before your eyes Cubans are killed. The scene of the moving ship and the scene of the killed Cubans are all equivalent in the camera's eye in the Spanish-American war. The film shows Filipinos in their trenches defending against the Americans. Suddenly they fall and an American flag is waving over them. The poignancy of the shot lies in the viewer.
What you discover in the notes on the Library of Congress film archives is that the scenes of war are REENACTMENTS (the 2 Edison films on the bottom). Edison and his minions, seers of a new order, inventing a novel way to see, ironically recomposed history first via this forgotten war: the Philippine-American War gave birth to history as visual entertainment. Note the resource notes: African Americans played Filipinos dying in the trenches. If these films are not symptom and braid of History as it is, I don't know what is.
"The passivity of a photographic record might be relieved only by the viewer the photographs produce. And even then, not all types of viewers are ideal. Photographs of a captured country shot through the lens of the captor possess layers of ambiguity too confusing to grasp:
there is the eye of the victim, the captured,
who may in turn be belligerent, bystander, blameless, blamed—
though there are subtle shifts in pathetic balance, who is to measure them?;
there is the eye of the colonized viewing their captured history in the distance created by time;
there is the eye of the captor, the soldier, who has just wounded the captured;
there is the eye of the captor, in capital letters: the Colonizer who has captured history’s lens;
there is the eye of the citizens (belligerent, bystander, blameless, blamed)
whose history has colonized the captured in the distance created by time;
and there is the eye of the actual photographer:
the one who captured the captured and the captors in his camera’s lens—what the hell was he thinking?"
"On the Smithsonian website, www.loc.gov, search 'Philippine insurrection,' and you come across them. Archived stereo pairs from the years 1899 to 1904, the bleak years of U.S. imperial aggression before the surrender of the last Filipino forces to American occupation. You may as well just copy and paste the gist. Soldiers wading across a shallow river; advancing through open country, et cetera. A group of men with crates of food on the beach, et cetera. A burned section of Manila. The burned quarters of rebel president, Aguinaldo. Firefighting measures. Artillery. Ducks swimming. Children wading. Soldier burying a dead “insurgent.” Soldier showing off the barrel of his Colt .45. Et cetera.
Et cetera. A history in ellipses, too obscure to know. Not to mention the words in quotes and not. 'Insurgents' are in quotes. Insurrection is not. Rebel is a problematic term. History is not fully annotated or adequately contemplated in online archives. This troubles translators, scholars, and passing memorabilia seekers looking for cheap thrills.
The puzzling duplication becomes mere trope, a cliché. Photographic captions rebuke losers and winners alike. 'Soldiers,' for instance, refer only to white males. 'Burned' does not suggest who has done the burning. 'Firefighting measures' is a generous term, given the circumstances."
Click on the photos to get two good web links on the Balangiga massacre: a summative article by the Waray historian, Rolando Borrinaga, the expert on Balangiga, and a good set of sources on philippineamericanwar.webs.com.
"What is striking about Honor in the Dust, Gregg Jones’s fascinating new book about the Philippine-American War, is not how much war has changed in more than a century, but how little. On nearly every page, there is a scene that feels as if it could have taken place during the Bush and Obama administrations rather than those of McKinley and Roosevelt. American troops are greeted on foreign soil as saviors and then quickly despised as occupiers. The United States triumphantly declares a victorious end to the war, even as bitter fighting continues. Allegations of torture fill the newspapers, horrifying and transfixing the country.
"Nowhere will this book resonate more profoundly with modern readers, however, than in the opening episode, which is as difficult to read as it is jarringly familiar. Jones describes the use of an interrogation technique whose name alone instantly brings to mind a recent, highly contentious tactic. To force information from a Filipino mayor believed to have been covertly helping insurgents, American soldiers resort to what they call the “water cure.” After tying the mayor’s hands behind his back and forcing him to lie beneath a large water tank, they pry his mouth open, hold it in place with a stick and then turn on the spigot. When his stomach is full to bursting, the soldiers begin pounding on it with their fists, stopping only after the water, now mixed with gastric juices, has poured from his mouth and nose. Then they turn on the spigot again. The technique, which was perfected during the Spanish Inquisition, produced in its victims the “simultaneous sensations of drowning and of being burned or cut as internal organs stretched and convulsed.”
Read the complete New York Times review of Honor in the Dust
DIANE ARBUS IS AT THE MET.
"...She is no wild thing, no, not a Diane Arbus..."
But as Arbus said, and Magsalin might quote: “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” Such is the case of The Unintended—a layer within a layer within a layer—and what is the secret for?