Archive - Jul 2005

Latest News from Juarez

A story in the Houston Chronicle tells of a bus driver in Juarez who was just released from prison because a judge found him not guilty after being tortured into confessing to the rape and murder of 8 women in 2001.

It's a mostly pretty good article overviewing the torture side of the Juarez situation. What I continue to find interesting is the way such a huge variety of numbers for the killings keeps being reported. Somebody says 300, somebody else says 360, somebody else says 400, the government says, oh, only 100 of them were sexually motivated so there's only 100.

This has always been a problem with this issue. It's not a surprise that there would be different counts, given the many layers of incompetence and corruption, and attempts by the government to minimize the problem by creating different categories for the murders. However what annoys me is that the media seldom mentions this problem. It would only take one extra sentence. Instead of saying, "the total is X," it would be easy to say, "the total number of killings, according to the government, is X, but other sources put the amount at over Y." The number I'm probably going to go with in my film is "over 410", but I'm going to acknowledge that this is just one of many counts. The other disputable thing in this article is that they mention the count since 1994, but everyone else I've talked to always says this problem started in 1993. So that shaves a bunch of murders off right away (I think about 19 in that first year).

Jonesing for Freakishness

My good friend Jay is hanging out in Detroit for a month, where she's from originally, and near where I lived for 6 years during my college days. She told me the 4th Street Fair was happening this weekend, and I looked it up on the web. It looks pretty cool - I never knew about such freaky things in Detroit when I was in Ann Arbor. It reminds me of all the whacky street fairs that happen in San Francisco every year, like Folsom Street Fair.

Seeing this fit right into my mood that kicked off earlier today wheen meeting some old friends for lunch in Iowa City, a sort of wistfulness. I realized that I still love college towns and that I've been missing friends and counterculture. I think the last counterculture I experienced was El Chopo in Mexico City.

What a strange several months it has been...

Sobering Maps & Flags

This really well-done map by the Palm Beach Post let's you zoom and click on various locations in the U.S. to find details of who has died during our government's latest imperial military ventures abroad. It's a great visual demonstration of the effect the "War on Terror" has had here at home.

It looks like its pretty evenly spread out with population, to my naked eye, but it would be interesting to see a statistical analysis to see if some areas are disproportionately hit.

Also interesting, and even more effective, are some charts by a Brazilian artist that use various national flags to illustrate statistical facts.

(thanx jose')

The Road Ahead Is Still So Long

I've been working for so long on this documentary about Juarez. I have a month left, exactly, till the deadline I set for myself to finish it, but it seems like there's still so much to do. The enormity of the task is just incredible. Working the new interviews that I shot into it is the big problem. There's a lot of excellent material and it's a huge task figuring out how to fit it into what I already have, what old material to chop out to make room for it and that sort of thing.

And the task is made harder by the fact that all the new material is in Spanish. I still have trouble with some people talking. In fact a few of the interviewees, even if I spend an hour playing 30 seconds of an interview over and over I still can just barely make out what the hell they're saying. Others, it's totally easy and clear, like as easy as listening to someone talk in English. Totally amazing how there can be that much variation. And it's not even regional accents. It could be 2 people both from Chihuahua, one talks nice and slow and clear, the other talks like insanely fast and all slurred together.

Luckily I think I might be getting some help. Jacob from San Diego IMC has sent out a great callout to his peeps there. Maybe you'd like to help, even, if you know spanish. I wish there was some sort of global Indymedia mechanism for translating stuff that is audio. The Translation Tool is great for written text. Maybe it could be tweaked by some tech people so you could upload an mp3 clip and people could work from there.

While working on this project I took a short detour last weekend and did a small video for Indymedia Newsreal about deportation, which I've just uploaded to Vimeo. Vimeo is a neat little site, sort of like Flickr for videos. Lots of college kids with camphones just throwing up random silly shit, but whatever. I guess if I wasn't so old and bitter and serious I wouldn't mind that, but para mi, ahora, el toda parece tan .... priveleged. Dude, while you're in Mallorca on spring break taking videos of wet t-shirt contests there are people starving to death right over the next hill... suspira...

Well, back to work...

Fox a Complete Failure

In the wake of the PRI's victory last week in the election of governor for el Estado de Mexico, the country's most populous state, The Council on Hemispheric Affairs gives us this detailed account of just how terrible Vincente Fox has been as president of Mexico.

The Usual

I feel like I have 2 different readerships of this blog. There are my family and friends, who are interested in following what is happening in my life, for whom the blog is sort of a surrogate for actually seeing me every day and asking "hey, what're you up to today?" Then there's others who read it because they are colleagues in some way, from the activist world, the videography world, the art world. They are interested in what I write that has a direct bearing on those worlds - my thoughts on current politics, a link to an interesting art project, etc. The first group though is probably just as happy to see me mention little mundane things I do each day.

Yesterday I was thinking about blogging about the fact that I made a really good omlette for lunch. I thought about how silly that was but then thought how there must be hundreds or thousands of blogs filled with nothing but mundane, banal details of daily life. One can be contemptuous of this or not. Nevertheless, one possible project linked to this fact that I thought of is to make a sort of agregator/searchengine that looked for all the blogs each day that mention doing the same thing you mention doing that day. So in my example it would go find all the other people that blogged about making an omlette too. That would be an interesting experiment and perhaps an excellent demonstration of the common ground shared by so many people. Of course some activities you would rather feel are unique. If I blog about working on my Juarez documentary I would want the search engine to not come up with very many others who did that as well. (In a selfish sense, at least. Idealistically, it would be great if there were 20 people all working on using the medium of video to raise awareness of the femicides in Juarez.)

A good friend I got to know well when I lived in San Francisco has recently moved to Spain, and I've been enjoying his blog, which he started at about the same time that he moved. It's a way to keep up on his everyday life, his adventures in his new country, and also to practice my spanish (he's been blogging about half in english and half in spanish), and also to read his political and philosophical insights. He's one of the smartest people I know.

Today he blogged about his family history and his visit to the town in Spain where his mother's father and grandfather are from, which they left to emigrate to Cuba long ago.

I was happy that I only had to look up about 4 words:

  • bisabuelo - great grandfather
  • malague
  • Fllanos

    street art in ChihuahuaI keep meaning to blog about this. When I was in Chihuahua City a few weeks ago, I saw some stickers and wheatpasted flyers that indicated there was some political/artistic/countercultural undercurrent going on there. Which I was surprised about because it seems like a pretty sterile city, all about business and state government and very little culture, except for lots of cowboy boot stores. Anyway one of the most interesting things turned out to be a poster with the url on it. It turns out to be the well-designed site of an interesting video artist from Mexico City named Fernando Llanos. No idea why his url would be plastered on walls in Chihuahua City, but I'm glad they were.

    He has a mailing list that he uses to send out little videos he's done, and I found it interesting to see that he sends to the list every Tuesday because that's the day he can't drive in Mexico City. In D.F. to cut down on pollution everyone has one day a week that they can't drive their car, depending on your license plate number. I often wondered about that when I was there, if many of the people I saw enjoying leisure time were not at work because it was their own "car free day."


    So today Tony Blair said this, referring to the attacks in London:

    "We know that these people act in the name of Islam but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding people who abhor those who do this every bit as much as we do," he added.

    I think he probably means well with this statement. He's trying to defuse acts of vigilantism against Muslims in England in retaliation for the bombings. However, I think if he questioned some basic assumptions and language, he might be more successful. If you look closely at the words he uses, you'll notice how, probably unconciously, he sets up a polarity between "Muslims" and "we." Shouldn't he be including the Muslims in the "we", if he really wants to instill a sense of togetherness and good will? they are a "decent people" who "abhor those who do this" as much as "we do." Why not say something more like "The vast majority of Muslims here stand today together with other Britons in a deep condemnation of this atrocity, apparently committed in the name of Islam by a small, extremist Muslim minority." Or something like that. Why all the "we"s and "those"es?

    London Attack Flickr Photo Pool

    There's a photo pool on Flickr for photos from the London bomb attacks today. A pool is a place where a group of flickr users can all post photos on a certain subject. This pool makes me realize that Flickr, and/or its users, need to be utilized by the independent media movement. There are now about 200 photos on the pool, which is more than I've been able to find on the UK indymedia site. Admittedly a lot of them are screen grabs of mainstream television coverage, but this is still helpful.

    In other related news about news, I just heard that Canadian TV is making a much smaller deal out of this than CNN is. I don't even want to look at CNN, mush less Fox. But this makes total sense. Of course the pro-Bush, pro-fear media here would be pumping this up as big as it can be, as further proof of the importance of a the War on Terror, a futher justification for an increase in security and stripping away more civil rights.

    Of course what has happened in London is horrible, and I know people who live there and I am truly worried and sad for them, and for everyone there. But let's step back and look at the the fact that casualties at least so far are much less than the Madrid attack and of course hugely less than 9/11. (Right now mainstream media that i've seen is only reporting 2 or 3 confirmed deaths, though UK IMC is saying 20 or more, citing the BBC but I don't see any BBC report online that says that.) It's a coordinated attack, it's in a major financial center, and it's during the G8, so that's why it's getting so much attention. But the G8, the World Bank and the IMF make very coordinated attacks on poor countries all the time that cause many many more deaths. Not deaths with flashy explosions, but deaths by starvation and disease.

    I hope I don't sound callous or insane - I condemn these attacks, but they're going to keep happening unless the rich countries stop stomping on the poor. And it's only going to get worse. And since they're going to keep happening, I just wish that the terrorists would use some intelligent and convincing articulations of their position (or I wish they had a more intelligent position), when they claim responsiblity. The Al Queda announcement for this one is full of religious bullshit that just makes them sound like the insane fanatics that they are. But what if a terrorist attack was accompanied by a really rational anti-capitalist, anti-neoliberal analysis? What if Osama Bin-laden was more like Subcommandante Marcos?