Foreign Intelligence Brief #407: On White House Beer & The Appeal Of Diner En Blanc

September 2, 2012 

The greatest thing about the American election cycle? It’s the return of Get Your War On! Press play on the video above for a fantastical taste of two lovers theoretically entwined at the Republican National Convention.

And what a god awful sham it was, Clint Eastwood’s bizarre antics notwithstanding.

These three buttoned-up dudes explaining the dangers of masturbation to deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses are really feelin’ it. What’s missing is a sexy soundtrack, not to mention a woman.

Cute as fuck: when skateboarding first arrived in New York City in the 1960′s.

Venice is sinking: Terrence Malick’s new film To The Wonder booed by critics at Venice Film Festival.

A comedic history of internet spam.

The latest marketing initiative from Absolut is a limited edition vodka bottle (a run of 4 million). The new product packaging will become available at airport bars (and other shit holes) around the world this October.

Covers of Where magazine subtly reveal the publication’s ethos.

In Singapore, the Diner en Blanc mass secret supper organisers went too far with their control-freakiness by disinviting local bloggers and telling people what they could and couldn’t bring to eat. Still, from a business perspective and as a social experiment in population control, it remains a wonderful idea: let’s make it ridiculously exclusive, host it in a sterile environment, have everyone dress up head-to-toe in white, subject their enjoyment to a bunch of stupid restrictions, have them pay good money to bring their own food (seriously), and get them to ejaculate in unison with sparklers at the end of it all to celebrate their participation in a masturbatory spectacle that has no meaning. Ka-ching! Pure genius, and we (together with our media) fell for it hard.

Unrelated: the why of not wearing white after Labour Day:

By the 1880s, in order to tell who was acceptable and who wasn’t, the women who were already “in” felt it necessary to create dozens of fashion rules that everyone in the know had to follow. That way, if a woman showed up at the opera in a dress that cost more than most Americans made in a year, but it had the wrong sleeve length, other women would know not to give her the time of day.

Ever been stirred by Jack Kerouac’s reading of Old Angel Midnight? His collected poems have just been published by the Library of America.

Barack Obama becomes the first President to make alcohol in The White House. His kitchen crew releases its beer brewing secrets and recipes.

Bonus: new JPL panorama images put you in driver’s seat on Mars.

Foreign Intelligence Briefing #401: Maurice Sendak, We’ll Eat You Up! We Love You So!

Sad news this morning. Maurice Sendak, author of Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen, has died at the age of 83.

Despite its wild popularity, Mr. Sendak’s work was not always well received. Some early reviews of “Where the Wild Things Are” expressed puzzlement and outright unease. Writing in Ladies’ Home Journal, the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim took Mr. Sendak to task for punishing Max:

“The basic anxiety of the child is desertion,” Mr. Bettelheim wrote. “To be sent to bed alone is one desertion, and without food is the second desertion.” (Mr. Bettelheim admitted that he had not actually read the book.)

“In the Night Kitchen,” which depicts its young hero, Mickey, in the nude, prompted many school librarians to bowdlerize the book by drawing a diaper over Mickey’s nether region.

But these were minority responses. Mr. Sendak’s other awards include the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and, in 1996, the National Medal of the Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton. Twenty-two of his titles have been named New York Times best illustrated books of the year.

His childrens books had already long ago joined the pantheon of greats. Now, so does he. There, we imagine him befriending Shakespeare, poking fun at Herodotus, causing shit with Hemingway, Seuss and Thompson, and randomly yelling “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Foreign Intelligence Briefing #399: “Kony 2012″ Releases 20 Minute Follow-Up Movie

After Kony 2012 boss Jason Russell’s apparent breakdown in California a few weeks ago (he went screaming naked in the streets), the organisation has just released a new 20 minute film – Kony 2012 Part 2: Beyond Famous – detailing Invisible Children’s progress in raising awareness about the evil Gargamel Joseph Kony and his cat Asrael the LRA. Have your salt grains at the ready. Though Kony is indeed a massive asshole, TDW reminds us that Invisible Children isn’t a charity, but rather “a private interest group that allocates the overwhelming majority of its budget (nearly 70% in 2011) toward travel, compensation, administration, fundraising, making movies, and lobbying celebrities and Congress to support its central aim: direct foreign military intervention in Africa.” The new film is as well-made as the original, but as a consequence of the negative fallout surrounding the original, it’s hard to find it anywhere near as compelling. Will it have the same reach/impact? It’s hardly a day old, and quickly approaching a million hits. Cue internet backlash in 3, 2, 1…

Foreign Intelligence Briefing #396: The DTES As Seen Through The Bright Prism Of Detroit

I love this short documentary. My neighbourhood is in it, even though it really isn’t. 9 Businesses depicts – yup – nine new businesses in the once mighty city of Detroit, which is still struggling to find some semblance of a renaissance after several decades of decay. While the parallels between the declines of Motown and the DTES aren’t perfectly aligned (far from it), the individuals profiled in the film most certainly are. The resemblances are uncanny. They share the very same goals, inspirations, and vocations of those who’ve recently set up shop in and around the DTES. They’re all cooks, craftsmen, designers, bakers, creatives, and such – all young, independent, and bereft of wealth, but eager nonetheless to inject some awesomeness back into a city they love. And the consequences for them are the same, too. They’re either welcomed as restorers of an urban fabric long ago rent asunder or scoffed at as the foot soldiers of gentrification, even though the realities on the ground are defined more by nuance and instance than the black and white of absolutism. Anyway, it’s worth watching if you can spare six and half minutes.

Foreign Intelligence Briefing #389: Sinatra Croons To Uplift Savaged #Occupy Spirits

Here’s Sinatra singing New York, New York for the #OWS folks during the raids of the 15th. They could use a song after the shit they’ve been through, as could their brethren here in Vancouver, where it’s cold – half-snowing, half-raining. After a promising start that enjoyed broad civic support, a lot of Vancouverites have turned against #OccupyVancouver. On account of their woeful communication skills and the media instincts of sick badgers, the local chapter has sort of let the global side down a bit, allowing the press to paint them – day after day after day – as expensive idiots, irresponsible drug addicts, homeless opportunists and professional protestors. But still they’ve held, and we should all be proud of them. It takes a lot of courage to stand by one’s convictions. It’s made a little easier when you’re right, but not by much. What is the #Occupy movement wrong about? The banks suck, the financial system is broken, the world is getting meaner than it needs to be, and the #RobinHood tax is a very good idea. I think everybody agrees with those points, except the 1%. So the next time a local paper details how #OccupyVancouver has ruined the Christmas parade (really?), reveals that the VAG suddenly smells like weed (no!), or discovers that there just might be a little issue with heroin in our city (never!), don’t forget that grassroots aren’t roses, and that those who are paid to inform us aren’t doing their jobs. Sing it Frank! “These little town blues…”