I’m starting this week off with something upsetting, so I’ll follow it up with a couple of related recommendations that are much more fun, and a new song to round things off.
Article: ” Ring of Fire: Why Our Army’s Toxic Burn Pits Are Making Soldiers Sick” by Katie Drummond
This story will probably piss you off. Apparently U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan spent several years disposing of all of their waste— ALL of it, from food scraps to explosives to body parts— in huge, open fires called “burn pits.” The one at Joint Base Balad, where the soldier featured in the story was stationed, was 10 acres in size. Oh, and hey, guess what: breathing in the smoke of burning who-knows-what for months at a time is pretty bad for you. Many soldiers— one person interviewed in the piece estimates over 400,000— have reported health problems that may be linked to the born pits, among the most severe of which is something called congestive bronchialitis. So far, the Departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs— the latter of which provides many vets with their health care— do not accept that the consequences are as severe as the people interviewed here are claiming, which makes it difficult for those suffering from the possibly linked conditions to get the care that they need. Many of those in the piece draw a comparison between the burn pits and Agent Orange, the defoliant used heavily in Vietnam to thin out the jungle canopy which the DoD only acknowledged was linked to a variety of health issues including cancer and birth defects a couple of years ago— over 30 years after it was used. Now, to be fair, I am not really in a position to evaluate the evidence here, but the piece certainly makes you think that these government agencies are more concerned with avoiding culpability than with solving a problem, which is entirely despicable.
Now, to cleanse your palate from that story, two items featuring old-school mechanical animation techniques:
Article: “The Psychadelic and Grotesque Proto-GIFs of the Nineteenth Century” by Amar Toor
You’ve probably seen Eadweard Muybridge’s study of a running horse, which both showed that all of a horse’s feet leave the ground when it runs and was used to pioneer new methods of animation and film projection. Richard Balzer has a collection of zoetropes and phenakistoscopes, both early methods for producing animated images. He has managed to get a large number of them photographed and rendered as animated GIFs, and they are collected on his tumblr. Many of them are very weird Many of them are very weird, even surreal, with fantastic and vivid imagery. I also like the collision of very old technology with the very of-the-moment phenomena of GIFs and Tumblr.
Video: “Demoni” by Theodore Ushev; music by Kottarashky & The Rain Dogs
This is really a music video for the song, but Ushev is a pretty serious filmmaker and I was more interested in what’s going on here visually. It’s animation produced by drawing a sequence of images on a vinyl record, and then filming the record while it spins on a turntable. Obviously there’s a little more to it&mdahs; if nothing else he had to change records several times, and clearly sequences have been edited to repeat, etc.— but the basic technique is very much like the old zoetropes that some of Richard Balzer’s GIFs come from. Very cool, very clever idea, and the art itself is also really striking.
Via The Dissolve
Song: “Last Stand” by Kwabs
“Waiting Game” by Banks is pretty much my song of the year so far. That’s partly due to her voice, partly the lyrics, but also in very large part it’s SOHN’s production that does it for me. He also produced this one, by British-Ghanaian singer Kwabs, and it shows. His voice is also pretty remarkable, unusually fluid for the vocal range and totally distinctive. You can’t buy or download this anywhere yet, apparently, and he only has one other song up on Soundcloud, but I will definitely be looking for more.