Thursday, September 30

"must see dvd" - Faith in the White House

The New York Times
October 3, 2004
Now on DVD: The Passion of the Bush

You can run but you can't hide: Oct. 5 will bring the perfect storm in this year's culture wars. It's on that strategically chosen date, four Tuesdays before the election, that the DVD of "Fahrenheit 9/11" will be released along with not one but two new Michael Moore books. ..

Of the many cultural grenades being tossed that day, though, the one must-see is "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," a DVD that is being specifically marketed in "head to head" partisan opposition to "Fahrenheit 9/11." This documentary first surfaced at the Republican convention in New York, where it was previewed in tandem with an invitation-only, no-press-allowed "Family, Faith and Freedom Rally," a Ralph Reed-Sam Brownback jamboree thrown by the Bush campaign for Christian conservatives. Though you can buy the DVD for $14.95, its makers told the right-wing news service that they plan to distribute 300,000 copies to America's churches. And no wonder. This movie aspires to be "The Passion of the Bush," and it succeeds.

More than any other campaign artifact, it clarifies the hard-knuckles rationale of the president's vote-for-me-or-face-Armageddon re-election message. It transforms the president that the Democrats deride as a "fortunate son" of privilege into a prodigal son with the "moral clarity of an old-fashioned biblical prophet." Its Bush is not merely a sincere man of faith but God's essential and irreplaceable warrior on Earth. The stations of his cross are burnished into cinematic fable: the misspent youth, the hard drinking (a thirst that came from "a throat full of Texas dust"), the fateful 40th-birthday hangover in Colorado Springs, the walk on the beach with Billy Graham. A towheaded child actor bathed in the golden light of an off-camera halo re-enacts the young George comforting his mom after the death of his sister; it's a parable anticipating the future president's miraculous ability to comfort us all after 9/11. An older Bush impersonator is seen rebuffing a sexual come-on from a fellow Bush-Quayle campaign worker hovering by a Xerox machine in 1988; it's an effort to imbue our born-again savior with retroactive chastity. As for the actual president, he is shown with a flag for a backdrop in a split-screen tableau with Jesus. The message isn't subtle: they were separated at birth.

"Faith in the White House" purports to be the product of "independent research," uncoordinated with the Bush-Cheney campaign. But many of its talking heads are official or unofficial administration associates or sycophants. They include the evangelical leader and presidential confidant Ted Haggard (who is also one of Mel Gibson's most fervent P.R. men) and Deal Hudson, an adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign until August, when he resigned following The National Catholic Reporter's investigation of accusations that he sexually harassed an 18-year-old Fordham student in the 1990's. As for the documentary's "research," a film positioning itself as a scrupulously factual "alternative" to "Fahrenheit 9/11" should not inflate Mr. Bush's early business "success" with Arbusto Energy (an outright bust for most of its investors) or the number of children he's had vaccinated in Iraq ("more than 22 million," the movie claims, in a country whose total population is 25 million).

"Will George W. Bush be allowed to finish the battle against the forces of evil that threaten our very existence?" Such is the portentous question posed at the film's conclusion by its narrator, the religious broadcaster Janet Parshall, beloved by some for her ecumenical generosity in inviting Jews for Jesus onto her radio show during the High Holidays. Anyone who stands in the way of Mr. Bush completing his godly battle, of course, is a heretic. Facts on the ground in Iraq don't matter. Rational arguments mustered in presidential debates don't matter. Logic of any kind is a nonstarter. The president - who after 9/11 called the war on terrorism a "crusade," until protests forced the White House to backpedal - is divine. He may not hear "voices" instructing him on policy, testifies Stephen Mansfield, the author of one of the movie's source texts, "The Faith of George W. Bush," but he does act on "promptings" from God. "I think we went into Iraq not so much because there were weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Mansfield has explained elsewhere, "but because Bush had concluded that Saddam Hussein was an evildoer" in the battle "between good and evil." So why didn't we go into those other countries in the axis of evil, North Korea or Iran? Never mind. To ask such questions is to be against God and "with the terrorists."

The propagandists of "Faith in the White House" argue, as others have, that the president's invocation of religion in the public sphere, from his citation of Jesus as his favorite "political philosopher" to his incessant invocation of the Almighty in talking about how everything is coming up roses in Iraq, is consistent with the civic spirituality practiced by his antecedents, from the founding fathers to Bill Clinton. It's not. Past presidents have rarely, if ever, claimed such godlike infallibility. Mr. Bush never admits to making a mistake; even his premature "Mission Accomplished" victory lap wasn't in error, as he recently told Bill O'Reilly. After all, if you believe "God wants me to be president" - a quote attributed to Mr. Bush by the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention - it's a given that you are incapable of making mistakes. Those who say you have are by definition committing blasphemy. A God-appointed leader even has the power to rewrite His texts. Jim Wallis, the liberal evangelical author, has pointed out Mr. Bush's habit of rejiggering specific scriptural citations so that, say, the light shining into the darkness is no longer God's light but America's and, by inference, the president's own.

It's not just Mr. Bush's self-deification that separates him from the likes of Lincoln, however; it's his chosen fashion of Christianity. The president didn't revive the word "crusade" idly in the fall of 2001. His view of faith as a Manichaean scheme of blacks and whites to be acted out in a perpetual war against evil is synergistic with the violent poetics of the best-selling "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins and Mel Gibson's cinematic bloodfest. The majority of Christian Americans may not agree with this apocalyptic worldview, but there's a big market for it. A Newsweek poll shows that 17 percent of Americans expect the world to end in their lifetime. To Karl Rove and company, that 17 percent is otherwise known as "the base."

The pandering to that base has become familiar in countless administration policies, starting with its antipathy to stem-cell research, abortion, condoms for H.I.V. prevention and gay civil rights. But ever since Mr. Bush's genuflection to Bob Jones University threatened to shoo away moderates in 2000, the Rove ruse is to try to keep the most militant and sectarian tactics of the Bush religious program under the radar. (Mr. Rove even tried to deny that the wooden lectern at the Republican convention was a pulpit embedded with a cross, as if a nation of eyewitnesses could all be mistaken.) The re-election juggernaut has not only rounded up the membership rosters of churches en masse but quietly mounted official Web sites like as well. (Evangelicals and Mormons have their own Web variants on this same theme, but not the Jews, who are apparently getting in Kerry just what they deserve.) Even the contraband C-word is being revived out of sight of most of the press: Marc Racicot, the Bush-Cheney campaign chairman, lobbed a direct-mail fund-raising letter in March describing Mr. Bush as "leading a global crusade against terrorism."

In this spring's classic "South Park" parody, "The Passion of the Jew," in which Mr. Gibson's movie tosses the community into a religious war, one of the kids concludes: "If you want to be Christian, that's cool, but you should focus on what Jesus taught instead of how he got killed. Focusing on how he got killed is what people did in the Dark Ages, and it ends up with really bad results." He has a point. It's far from clear that Mr. Bush's eschatology and his religious vanity are leading to good results now. The all-seeing president who could pronounce Vladimir Putin saintly by looking into his "soul" is now refusing to acknowledge that the reverse may be true. The general in charge of tracking down Osama bin Laden, William G. Boykin, has earned cheers in some quarters for giving speeches at churches proclaiming that Mr. Bush is "in the White House because God put him there" to lead the "army of God" against "a guy named Satan." But all that preaching didn't get his day job done; he hasn't snared the guy named Osama he was supposed to bring back "dead or alive."

"George W. Bush: Faith in the White House" must be seen because it shows how someone like General Boykin can stay in his job even in failure and why Mr. Bush feels divinely entitled to keep his job even as we stand on the cusp of an abyss in Iraq. In this pious but not humble worldview, faith, or at least a certain brand of it, counts more than competence, and a biblical mission, or at least a simplistic, blunderbuss facsimile of one, counts more than the secular goal of waging an effective, focused battle against an enemy as elusive and cunning as terrorists. That no one in this documentary, including its hero, acknowledges any constitutional boundaries between church and state is hardly a surprise. To them, America is a "Christian nation," period, with no need even for the fig-leaf prefix of "Judeo-."

Far more startling is the inability of a president or his acolytes to acknowledge any boundary that might separate Mr. Bush's flawed actions battling "against the forces of evil" from the righteous dictates of God. What that level of hubris might bring in a second term is left to the imagination, and "Faith in the White House" gives the imagination room to run riot about what a 21st-century crusade might look like in the flesh. A documentary conceived as a rebuke to "Fahrenheit 9/11" is nothing if not its unintentional and considerably more nightmarish sequel.

Monday, September 20

Legal Studies in Liberal Arts

Legal Scholarship in the Liberal Arts


Law is ubiquitous. It pervades much of our lives and helps people throughout the world articulate values and deal with conflict. Yet unlike in Europe and other parts of the world -- where undergraduates regularly study law, and law departments and faculties are as common as departments of history or literature -- legal education in America is generally thought of as postgraduate education, located primarily in law schools dedicated to professional training. In fact, today respected scholars can argue about the need to develop law as an academic discipline without making reference to anything done in the liberal arts.

That contrasts significantly with the past, when some universities made a place for the examination of law as a body of disciplined knowledge separate from law schools or other academic fields, and some of the most important scholarship on law traditionally was done by American scholars with academic appointments in the liberal arts.

As early as 1887, Yale University established a course of study "for those not intending to enter any active business or professional career, but who wish to acquire an enlarged acquaintance with our political and legal systems, and the rules by which they are governed." During the 1920s, the Johns Hopkins University created an Institute for the Study of Law devoted "to the nonprofessional study of law, in order that the function of law may be comprehended, its results evaluated, and its development kept more nearly in step with the complex developments of modern life." However, with the growth and institutionalization of law schools, universities retreated from those early, promising efforts.

Today only 60 colleges and universities allow their students to concentrate in something called "legal studies" or "law and society." A handful of those offer full-fledged majors; the rest are minors or certificate programs. Noticeably absent are the Ivy League universities and all but a few of the best liberal-arts colleges. Furthermore, no more than a few universities offer interdisciplinary Ph.D.'s in law.

That is unfortunate both for legal scholarship and for the liberal arts. For legal scholarship, it means that the work of understanding law is generally coupled with the lawyer's need to understand how to use it or with the policy maker's desire to reform it, impoverishing our ability to see the complex connections of law, culture, and society in all their variety and to connect theorizing about law with the humanities and social sciences.

In the liberal arts, the failure to more fully articulate and institutionalize legal scholarship deprives them of a subject of enormous richness and interest. Systematic study of law advances the goals of a liberal education because of the importance of law in culture and society, as well as the capacity of legal study to engage and enhance the intellectual, analytic, and imaginative capacities of undergraduates.

Indeed, the study of law invites examination of a wide range of critical questions about people and the ways they live together, raising issues traditionally linked to liberal inquiry. For example:

* Why are some societies dependent on law while others resist legal regulation and favor different modes of organizing, regulating, and changing behavior?

* How does law change, and how do social forces precipitate legal change? What role does legal continuity play in historical change and the structuring of historical time?

* Can immoral law nonetheless be valid and binding?

* How is the power of law exercised, and what role does law play in the calculus of sociopolitical legitimacy?

* What is the relationship between the official law and the lives of people that the law is supposed to regulate? Is legal regulation efficient? Does law facilitate or impede the growth of scientific knowledge and technological innovation?

* In what ways are the narrative styles used by legal officials distinctive, and in what ways do they resemble rhetorical modes in other domains of social life? How do the canons of argument and proof used in law compare with those used elsewhere -- for example, in philosophy, science, or mathematics?

* How is the legal concept of authority grounded in a tradition of reading and re-reading canonical texts? How does this tradition of reading conserve and alter the meaning of written law?

* How should law be understood as a cultural system? How does it reflect or embody the debates and divisions of the cultures in which it is found? How have legal institutions embraced and constructed, as well as silenced and stigmatized, various national, social, cultural, and personal identities?

Legal study provides a useful and engaging way to sharpen students' skills as readers, as interpreters of culture, and as citizens schooled in what Aristotle would have regarded as a kind of practical wisdom, a knowledge that extends beyond theoretical understanding to civic and moral action.

To understand legal materials, students are required to develop habits of close reading and hone their interpretive, imaginative, and analytic abilities. Comprehending those materials requires great attentiveness, the ability to see how arguments are constructed, and the willingness to imagine alternative possibilities. Because law is concerned with resolving disputes, the student of law is invited to test his or her ethical arguments and textual understandings in a context where decisions must be made and force often must be deployed. In each of these respects, legal study complements the objectives of a liberal-arts education.

Still, one might ask why study law in the liberal arts when there is a well-developed tradition of legal study in professional schools? Or, more simply put, why should a liberal-arts college do what some people believe is now done in law schools? The short answer is that if law schools did anything like what I am describing, it might be less necessary to study law in the liberal arts. But they do not.

It is true that the law school of the 21st century is a far more open and accommodating place than it has ever been. The boundaries between law schools and the rest of the university have been blurred so much that many faculty members at the best law schools now have Ph.D.'s in addition to law degrees. Yet that blurring has occurred at the margins of even the most interdisciplinary law schools. At the center law schools are still "lawyering schools."

While the education of lawyers is important in its own right, legal education emphasizes doctrine and teaching students to "think like lawyers." Law school has the same relationship to legal study in the liberal arts as medical school does to the study of biology or business school does to the study of economics. In law schools, legal study is treated as a subject for professionals and practitioners who must understand what the law says and how it can be used to serve the interests of clients. It emphasizes the use of law as a tool rather than its role in society or its ethical and rhetorical dimensions. Consequently, law schools largely ignore broad regions of legal knowledge.

Legal scholarship in the liberal arts is a form of resistance to the professionalization of legal learning and its almost exclusive location in law schools. There is an important difference between teaching law to students so that they can use it as a tool in their professional lives, and teaching undergraduates about law as a social institution and about what happens when law is learned the way lawyers learn it.

That is not to say that law schools never take on law in a broader, more intellectually capacious way. Many do. But a certain limiting vision and cramping of style comes with the territory marked out by professional education.

Meanwhile, law-related courses -- like constitutional and international law, legal and constitutional history, and the philosophy of law -- have long been found among the offerings of social-science and humanities departments, yet they tend to focus on only certain aspects of law. For example, while legal study enriches the study of politics, much of what constitutes law cannot be brought within the confines of a discipline devoted to political matters.

Thus, legal scholarship in the liberal arts should be more than just another interdisciplinary venture, although it certainly draws on a variety of disciplines. It should be a distinct discipline. Thinking about law on the other side of the boundary marked off by professional education means finding the place where moral philosophy, with its arguments about the right and the good; literary theory, with its evaluations of the meanings and uses of language; and political science, with its understanding of the nature of social organization and of the harsh face of power, come together. And it means claiming that place for legal scholarship itself.

Fortunately, more organizations are starting to promote legal study in the liberal arts. For example, the Consortium of Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs was established last year with the stated purpose of supporting and promoting undergraduate programs in law and justice studies.

But more should be done. Colleges and universities should hire faculty members who think of themselves primarily as legal scholars and develop autonomous programs, departments, and research centers where a new conception of legal scholarship can be developed, a conception that moves away from professional issues and disciplinary perspectives toward a new synthesis. That synthesis grounds legal scholarship in the central concerns of the liberal arts, namely the effort to foster a general understanding of culture, history, science, and social organization. Legal scholarship in the liberal arts highlights the moral and political dimensions of law rather than its technical force. It opens up a space in which the issues of what law is, and toward what ends it should be directed, can be contested and assessed -- and in which law just might be saved from the lawyers.

Austin Sarat is a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College. He is the editor of Law in the Liberal Arts, from which this article is adapted, to be published this month by Cornell University Press. Copyright © 2004 by Cornell University.
Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 51, Issue 2, Page B20
Copyright © 2004 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

Saturday, September 11

Kerry's 'Apocalypse Now' - "Going Upriver"

The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: Coming Soon: Kerry's 'Apocalypse Now':

"Mr. Butler, best known for 'Pumping Iron,' the 1977 documentary that first turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into a national commodity, can be a powerful storyteller. And nowhere more so than when he gets to the scene where Mr. Kerry and his buddies protest the war by throwing medals and ribbons over a fence onto the Capitol steps. This incident has been stigmatized as an ugly un-American activity by the Kerry detractors. But the scene plays quite differently when you see it here, not as a grainy snapshot but as an extended cinematic drama, pieced together by Mr. Butler from his own photos and the large and heretofore scattered film record made by the many news organizations present that day.

What stares you in the face is the anguish and grief of men who put their lives in the line of fire for a government that undertook a pointless war, mismanaged it, kept it going out of hubris and then abandoned it. These veterans do not lightheartedly toss away the symbols of their sacrifice in Vietnam; they struggle with tears and violently conflicted emotions as they do so. They are battered men often wearing the ragtag remnants of their uniforms. Their eyes are haunted. They are willing to engage in self-annihilation, eradicating the record of their own heroism in battle, if that's what it takes to prevent their brothers from continuing to die in a doomed mission. Watch this and try not to weep.

Set against this real-life backdrop of the time, Mr. Kerry's famous line before J. W. Fulbright, Jacob Javits and the rest of that Senate committee regains its patriotic force: 'How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?' And as Todd Gitlin documents in his history, 'The Sixties,' the young Kerry's antiwar stance was hardly anomalous among his fellow Vietnam warriors by then, those still serving included. By that late point in the war — three years after Tet, L.B.J.'s abdication and Walter Cronkite's public declaration that we were 'mired in stalemate' — there were seven desertions and 17 AWOL incidents for every 100 American soldiers. There were more than 250 antiwar newspapers within the armed forces alone. And still another 13,000 Americans were yet to die for the mistake."

The New York Times Editorial for Sept 11, 2004 -- Preventive War: A Failed Doctrine

If facts mattered in American politics, the Bush-Cheney ticket would not be basing its re-election campaign on the fear-mongering contention that the surest defense against future terrorist attacks lies in the badly discredited doctrine of preventive war. Vice President Dick Cheney took this argument to a disgraceful low last week when he implied that electing John Kerry and returning to traditional American foreign policy values would invite a devastating new strike.

So far, the preventive war doctrine has had one real test: the invasion of Iraq. Mr. Bush terrified millions of Americans into believing that forcibly changing the regime in Baghdad was the only way to keep Iraq's supposed stockpiles of unconventional weapons out of the hands of Al Qaeda. Then it turned out that there were no stockpiles and no operational links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda's anti-American terrorism. Meanwhile, America's longstanding defensive alliances were weakened and the bulk of America's ground combat troops tied down in Iraq for what now appears to be many years to come. If that is making this country safer, it is hard to see how. The real lesson is that America dangerously erodes its military and diplomatic defenses when it charges off unwisely after hypothetical enemies.

Before the Iraq fiasco, American leaders rightly viewed war as a last resort, appropriate only when the nation's vital interests were actively threatened and reasonable diplomatic efforts had been exhausted. That view always left room for pre-emptive attacks; America is under no obligation to sit and wait, if it is clear that some enemy is actually preparing to strike first. But it correctly drew the line at preventive wars against potential foes who might, or might not, be thinking about doing something dangerous. As the administration's disastrous experience in Iraq amply demonstrates, that is still the wisest course and the one that keeps America most secure in an increasingly dangerous era.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, plainly ushered in a new era of catastrophic threats to the American homeland. If these are to be met effectively, major changes in national security policy will be required. But a shift toward preventive wars is not one of them. As the 9/11 commission report clearly established, international terrorist groups like Al Qaeda are highly mobile, self-financing and largely independent of traditional states. Governments that grant them sanctuary and facilities, like Afghanistan under the Taliban or Sudan, must face strong international pressure, including American military attack. Any attempt by the president and his surrogates to lump the invasion of Afghanistan into the category of preventive wars is plain wrong. In fact, the war in Iraq has undermined the important work that American forces are doing in Afghanistan by diverting soldiers, supplies and money.

Al Qaeda has already declared war on the United States, and America needs to fight back relentlessly - in Afghanistan and through international efforts to capture terrorist leaders who function with forged passports and visas, safe houses and sleeper cells. That is why Mr. Cheney is also wrong to disparage law-enforcement cooperation with allies as an important weapon in this war.

Instead, he promises more preventive, offensive wars against hypothetical dangers like Iraq. Besides estranging America from its main European and Asian allies, and leaving Washington looking like an aggressor to much of the Arab and Muslim world, these policies kill American soldiers and civilians in the countries attacked, and they threaten to tie down the Army and Marine divisions America needs to have available for responding to real threats in the dangerous decades ahead.

John Bruneau's Interview with Cory Arcangel vs The Stefanix of _SWITCH

John Bruneau's Interview with Cory Arcangel vs The Stefanix of _SWITCH

Just a fun interview with Cory Arcangel on hacking as art. In-text link to an intro Alex Galloway wrote for data diaries.

Wednesday, September 8

NYT: Ars Electronica Review

Ars Electronica Asks What Will Be Next

Published: September 8, 2004, NY TIMES

INZ, Austria, Sept. 6 - Twenty-five years ago an electronic music festival and conference called Ars Electronica was added to a local celebration of Anton Bruckner, the native son composer. Since then the festival's focus has broadened considerably, and it is a leading forum for media art, which uses technology, often in an interactive fashion.

Since 1987 it has awarded a Prix Ars Electronica for interactive art, computer animation, digital music and Web art. This year it added "digital community." All categories share a total of $121,000 in prizes.

For this year's festival, which ran from Thursday to Tuesday, Ars Electronica chose to explore the next 25 years of media art while including a smattering of its greatest hits.

What started as an awkward genre appears to have become more self-assured. For instance, this year's top prizewinner for interactive art was "Listening Post" by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, both Americans. In it 231 small displays are mounted in a grid. A computer scans Internet chat rooms, message boards and forums, and displays the results, while a speech synthesizer reads some of them.

The cycle starts its scanning for the phrase "I am," which is soon elaborated upon: "I am Turkish." "I am a Beatles fan." "I am sure you are right." All of these are read once, as the unseen writers assert identities, perhaps false, while gentle electronic music plays. When most of the grid is filled, it goes dark, and the real-time scanning of user-ID's is shown, whirring past so quickly that it sounds like wind.

Then come text fragments that remain for only a moment to be replaced by the next scan, short sentences that are also read out. Since each displayed text has been posted only seconds earlier, the viewer never sees the same "art" twice.

Many of these pieces involve the viewer. A popular one this year was "Messa di Voce," also by two Americans, Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman. One steps up to a projection, casting a shadow on one of three selected backgrounds, and makes sound into a microphone. The shadow becomes surrounded by a line, which can then be manipulated by waving the arms or making a different kind of sound.

The participants in Ken Rinaldo's "Augmented Fish Reality" are Siamese fighting fish, which are intensely territorial and have excellent vision. Mr. Rinaldo has put three in separate fishbowls fitted with sensors the fish can trigger to rotate a plant mounted in the bowl's center or move the stand on which the bowl is mounted across the floor. Are the fish learning to do this? Do they choose to move close to one another to perform threatening stances? Whatever, there's no question that they have been moving around the space.

The basement of Linz's new Lentos museum has some exhibits of past prizewinners, which sometimes reveal the perils of media art: especially with works created on older machines. It's something of an inside joke among media art fans that every exhibition has to be visited multiple times, not just to re-experience works but to see everything run at least once.

The Ars Electronica Center was erected in 1996 to exhibit, document and archive media art. It has become so popular that it can be jammed on weekends. Most of the works exhibited at the center are lighthearted, like "Cheese" by Christian Möller. It consists of filmed head shots of six young American actresses who were asked to smile for up to an hour. Software that purports to measure emotions determines whether the smile is genuine; when it judges it's not, a red light goes on.

"La Pâte à Son," a screen with a grid on which whimsical pipes and vents can be placed, moves little candylike bits of electronic melody through a "factory," manufacturing tunes. And in "Moony" by Takehisa Mashimo, Satoshi Shibata and Akio Kamisato, water evaporating from a surface forms a mist into which three-dimensional butterflies are projected. Users can manipulate the butterflies' position by moving their hands, but if they try to touch one, it flies away.

A regular event at Ars Electronica is an invitation to a media arts program at an educational institution to occupy the Linz Art College for a week. This year's visitors were from the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences in Ogaki, Japan.

The visiting students provided some of the high points of this year's festival. For instance, "Karakuri Block" by Natsu Kawakita and Nobuya Suzuki has two plastic blocks with Game Boy-like screens. When plugged into a grid, a block shows an animated Japanese family crest. When a second block is plugged in, elements from one block flow into the other.

Even the cafe here was interactive: Hisako Yamakawa had a tea dispenser in which one deposits a euro. A screen lights up and asks you to sign a promise to enjoy the tea and drink it all, and the signature then determines the exact blend.

Music and dance also are part of Ars Electronica. Over the weekend there was a well-received performance of a dance piece, "Apparition," designed and composed by Klaus Obermaier, in which two dancers begin by playing with lines projected behind them and quickly move to more complex interactions. Desiree Kongerod and Robert Tannion's precise, vigorous performance brought a storm of applause afterward.

The grand prize winner for digital music was Thomas Köner for "Banlieue du Vide," a mix of 3,000 surveillance photos taken on deserted streets during a nighttime snowstorm. It was mixed with documentary sounds of the daytime streets and some electronic sounds. Some appeared to be a bit confused about why this was considered music rather than a video installation, but most viewers seemed to feel it deserved a prize.

In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema

Jon Henley in Paris
Wednesday September 8, 2004
The Guardian, UK

Police in Paris have discovered a fully equipped cinema-cum-restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern underneath the capital's chic 16th arrondissement.

Officers admit they are at a loss to know who built or used one of Paris's most intriguing recent discoveries.

'We have no idea whatsoever,' a police spokesman said.

'There were two swastikas painted on the ceiling, but also celtic crosses and several stars of David, so we don't think it's extremists. Some sect or secret society, maybe. There are any number of possibilities.'

Members of the force's sports squad, responsible - among other tasks - for policing the 170 miles of tunnels, caves, galleries and catacombs that underlie large parts of Paris, stumbled on the complex while on a training exercise beneath the Palais de Chaillot, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

After entering the network through a drain next to the Trocadero, the officers came across a tarpaulin marked: Building site, No access.

Behind that, a tunnel held a desk and a closed-circuit TV camera set to automatically record images of anyone passing. The mechanism also triggered a tape of dogs barking, 'clearly designed to frighten people off,' the spokesman said.

Further along, the tunnel opened into a vast 400 sq metre cave some 18m underground, 'like an underground amphitheatre, with terraces cut into the rock and chairs'.

There the police found a full-sized cinema screen, projection equipment, and tapes of a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir classics and more recent thrillers. None of the films were banned or even offensive, the spokesman said.

A smaller cave next door had been turned into an informal restaurant and bar. 'There were bottles of whisky and other spirits behind a bar, tables and chairs, a pressure-cooker for making couscous,' the spokesman said.

'The whole thing ran off a professionally installed electricity system and there were at least three phone lines down there.'

Three days later, when the police returned accompanied by experts from the French electricity board to see where the power was coming from, the phone and electricity lines had been cut and a note was lying in the middle of the floor: 'Do not,' it said, 'try to find us.'

The miles of tunnels and catacombs underlying Paris are essentially former quarries, dating from Roman times, from which much of the stone was dug to build the city.

Today, visitors can take guided tours around a tightly restricted section, Les Catacombes, where the remains of up to six million Parisians were transferred from overcrowded cemeteries in the late 1700s.

But since 1955, for security reasons, it has been an offence to 'penetrate into or circulate within' the rest of the network.

There exist, however, several secretive bands of so-called cataphiles, who gain access to the tunnels mainly after dark, through drains and ventilation shafts, and hold what in the popular imagination have become drunken orgies but are, by all accounts, innocent underground picnics.

The recent discovery of three newly enlarged tunnels underneath the capital's high-security La Santé prison was put down to the activities of one such group, and another, iden tifying itself as the Perforating Mexicans, last night told French radio the subterranean cinema was its work.

Patrick Alk, a photographer who has published a book on the urban underground exploration movement and claims to be close to the group, told RTL radio the cavern's discovery was 'a shame, but not the end of the world'. There were 'a dozen more where that one came from,' he said.

'You guys have no idea what's down there.'

Friday, September 3


"I don't know where George Soros gets his money," one man said. "I don't know where - if it comes from overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from." George Soros, another declared, "wants to spend $75 million defeating George W. Bush because Soros wants to legalize heroin." After all, a third said, Mr. Soros "is a self-admitted atheist; he was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."

They aren't LaRouchies - they're Republicans.

The suggestion that Mr. Soros, who has spent billions promoting democracy around the world, is in the pay of drug cartels came from Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, whom the Constitution puts two heartbeats from the presidency. After standing by his remarks for several days, Mr. Hastert finally claimed that he was talking about how Mr. Soros spends his money, not where he gets it.

The claim that Mr. Soros's political spending is driven by his desire to legalize heroin came from Newt Gingrich. And the bit about the Holocaust came from Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of The Washington Times, which has become the administration's de facto house organ.

For many months we've been warned by tut-tutting commentators about the evils of irrational "Bush hatred." Pundits eagerly scanned the Democratic convention for the disease; some invented examples when they failed to find it. Then they waited eagerly for outrageous behavior by demonstrators in New York, only to be disappointed again.

There was plenty of hatred in Manhattan, but it was inside, not outside, Madison Square Garden.

Barack Obama, who gave the Democratic keynote address, delivered a message of uplift and hope. Zell Miller, who gave the Republican keynote, declared that political opposition is treason: "Now, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." And the crowd roared its approval.

Why are the Republicans so angry? One reason is that they have nothing positive to run on (during the first three days, Mr. Bush was mentioned far less often than John Kerry).

The promised economic boom hasn't materialized, Iraq is a bloody quagmire, and Osama bin Laden has gone from "dead or alive" to he-who-must-not-be-named.

Another reason, I'm sure, is a guilty conscience. At some level the people at that convention know that their designated hero is a man who never in his life took a risk or made a sacrifice for his country, and that they are impugning the patriotism of men who have.

That's why Band-Aids with Purple Hearts on them, mocking Mr. Kerry's war wounds and medals, have been such a hit with conventioneers, and why senior politicians are attracted to wild conspiracy theories about Mr. Soros.

It's also why Mr. Hastert, who knows how little the Bush administration has done to protect New York and help it rebuild, has accused the city of an "unseemly scramble" for cash after 9/11. Nothing makes you hate people as much as knowing in your heart that you are in the wrong and they are in the right.

But the vitriol also reflects the fact that many of the people at that convention, for all their flag-waving, hate America. They want a controlled, monolithic society; they fear and loathe our nation's freedom, diversity and complexity.

The convention opened with an invocation by Sheri Dew, a Mormon publisher and activist. Early rumors were that the invocation would be given by Jerry Falwell, who suggested just after 9/11 that the attack was God's punishment for the activities of the A.C.L.U. and People for the American Way, among others. But Ms. Dew is no more moderate: earlier this year she likened opposition to gay marriage to opposition to Hitler.

The party made sure to put social moderates like Rudy Giuliani in front of the cameras. But in private events, the story was different. For example, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas told Republicans that we are in a "culture war" and urged a reduction in the separation of church and state.

Mr. Bush, it's now clear, intends to run a campaign based on fear. And for me, at least, it's working: thinking about what these people will do if they solidify their grip on power makes me very, very afraid.