A War in the Shadows

With the current heated and bitter conflict in the Middle East between Israel and its unfriendly and hostile neighbors, many people rely on the media to receive news of the goings-on in the region. However, these people don’t get the real truth behind the conflict due to the bias behind the media. Israeli director Dror Moreh seeks to solve the problem with his new documentary, The Gatekeepers, which uses real life experiences from six retirees of secret Israeli safety agency Shin Bet. Shin Bet, also known as Shabak, was initially established in 1949 to address internal issues in the very new country of Israel, which was unfortunately divided due to ideological differences. But after the Six Day War of 1967, the organization was reoriented to gather intelligence in the West Bank and Gaza in order to counteract terrorism. This agency is independent from the Israel military and political structures, as its operatives answer directly to the prime minister and sometimes act as scapegoats for political failures. As the interviews of the six men show, Israel has not always been successful in its attempts to prevent conflict and has in fact resorted to fighting fire with fire in order to win out in the conflict. Some of these actions include a “targeted assassination” of Hamas militants (Hamas is a prominent Palestinian militaristic movement whose actions prevent peace between Arabs and Israelis), “moderate physical pressure” that could even be fatal to Palestinian prisoners of war, and other tactics used under the threat of occupation. These six men also address some controversial problems that have threatened to undermine Israeli politics, such as the deaths of 2 suspects in a bus hijacking in 1984 that led to the subsequent resignation of Shin Bet director Avraham Shalom and threatened the downfall of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s regime. The agency also failed to act in time to predict the outbreak of the first Intifada and wasn’t able to stop the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right wing Jewish extremist in 1995. Yaakov Peri, who served as the director of Shin Bet during the first Intifada, states that the job makes one lean towards a left wing outlook. Although these left wing politicians favor a two state solution, they all share a professional philosophy of ruthless and sentimental pragmatism which only increases their worry about the current state of Israel politics. Overall, this documentary has a very dark mood due to the stories traded from the memories of eyewitnesses who were and are still privy to doubts and ambivalent emotions. It is through these emotion driven stories that the audience will learn of a collective history of past and present Israeli politics with unbelievable clarity from a fair minded perspective. This documentary is sure to shake the foundation of people’s beliefs, however extreme or moderate they are. The gears in the minds of the people will start to move and more strategic means will be taken to fix the mistakes of the past to ensure a safer and more profitable future for not only Israel, but the entire Middle East.

What do you think of the approach of this documentary? Do you think that exposing the truths of Israeli politics could compensate for the mistakes of the past? Will this help bring awareness and intrigue towards the situation in the Middle East? What are the possible implications of this documentary in Israel and the Middle East?

Here Be Dragons – And Map Lovers

I used to love collecting things like snow globes, comic books, miniature figurines. However, it never crossed my mind to collect maps. In the article, Here Be Dragons – And Map Lovers, people actually pay over hundreds of thousands of dollars on early century maps of North American territories. The highest price paid ever for a map was $10 million, paid by the Library of Congress to Price Waldburg-Wolfegg of Germany in 2003, for the 1507 Waldseemüller map. (See here.)

December will be a busy month for map collectors. There is an auction, set on December 5by Arader Galleries in New York, dedicated to incorrectly plotted maps, globes, atlases and other related objects. They will be offering 50 maps with prices ranging from $450,000 to $600,000. On December 6, the very next day, Swann Galleries will be hosting an auction with over 250 pieces to sell. On December 7, Christie’s will host an auction with a Revolutionary War-era map of the New York region for an estimated $700,000 to $1 million.

Many of the maps were interesting to look at; especially the lion shaped one by Hessel Gerritsz. It is interesting to see how people depict places they have never seen. There are so many different shapes the land masses transform into. The maps really demonstrate the process of geographic discovery and progression over the centuries. Personally, I do not think it is worth the money everyone shells out for them. What is the point in investing in a map that will not get you to your destination and will most definitely get you lost? Is that not what a map is conventionally used for?

A well-known collector is Ned Davis who claimed, “It’s just kind of cool to think about what it would be like if California really was an island.” What value do you think collectors find in collecting maps with mistakes? Is it just for those who want to satisfy their imagination? Would any of you consider collecting maps? Do you think this can become a popularized form of art?

Help with your Video Mashups!

Hi everybody! As you work on your video mashups please remember that I am here to help with anything and everything! Especially, that is, the audio and visual editing process. Is the sound in your video messed up? Are you unsure about which shots to use, how long to keep them, or what sequence they should be in? Let’s talk about it! For now, here’s a little something about ‘continuity’ editing to get you thinking.

Fresh Paint: Photographers Amid Chaos

Mike Hale’s New York Times article, “Photographers Amid Chaos,” is a laudatory review of a series called “Witness,” a set of four documentaries about violent conflicts, by HBO, titled “Juarez,” “Rio,” “Libya,” and “South Sudan,” which were filmed in the heart of the conflict. Though Hale shows appreciation of the bravery of the reporters who went deep into these war-ravaged and crime-riddled areas, most of the article is showcasing the mentality of the reporters, who try to remove emotion from their work and focus instead on documenting the terrors of these parts of the world. However, I find that Hale overlooks something much more important than the “how” of these documentaries: he misses the “why”.

He does mention that in “Witness: Libya,” Brown, the reporter, revisits his own experience of being wounded by a mortar round in Libya, but the “why” that I mean is more aimed towards the reason for the “Witness” series. The people of America have become overly complacent, comfortable in their homes and apartments, experiencing some crimes that appall them, but nothing on the scale of places such as Sudan and Libya. However, we feel like we know enough to be opinionated on these subjects, giving criticism of the government’s involvement in Libya or the war on drugs with cartels such as those in Juarez from our couches and armchairs. Sure, some of the more educated of these experts might google some numbers to back up their claims or maybe watch Fox news and get Bill O’reilly’s take on these issues. However, we know nothing until we see it for ourselves. It’s easy to say that Libya is not our problem or blame our crime problems on Mexico, until we see the chaos in the streets and the impact of this violence on innocent people. We live, in many cases, in a cocoon, believing that we know enough from statistics and pundits. These documentaries are the first step of tearing open that cocoon and showing us who these issues affect and how severely they do so. Of course, seeing the chaos and violence for ourselves may not change many viewpoints, but we should not hold these viewpoints based on our limited knowledge. These conflicts ruin and end so many lives that it’s cruel to make opinions on them without actually seeing their effects. There is a very large difference to human empathy between seeing some numbers on a computer and seeing the destroyed buildings and crime scenes caused by these conflicts.

Although it may be Hale’s job to focus on discussing the aesthetic qualities of these documentaries, but the potential social impact of these documentaries should overshadow any discussion of strategies that the reporters employ. Regardless of how the reporters try to present the effect of violence in these areas, if people watch this series, confronting people with images of this destruction will have a very powerful effect on them. People need to see these places for the way they are and that is the goal that these documentaries set out to achieve.

Barclays Center, the New Rusty Gem of Brooklyn

Michael Kimmelman’s “An Arena as Tough as Brooklyn. But Street Smart?” discusses the arrival of the glorious Barclay’s Center and its impact on Brooklyn. He says, “At first blush it’s a shocker, which is one of its virtues.” He goes on to describe the stadium as a piece of art and explains how things can get a bit “tricky” because of the venue’s location in Brooklyn.

In the heart of Brooklyn, in Fort Greene, about a mile from the Brooklyn Bridge, there stands a magnificent fortress of an arena. Its exterior is reddish brown, consisting of 12,000 grainy weathered steel panels. Each panel is a little different using computer modeling. This gives a hardcore industrial look to it. The building has openings here and there for slivers of windows that people can look through to the inside. In the front of the building, there is a huge open roof canopy with a loop of 85 feet. On the inside of the loop, there is an electric billboard that displays the inside of the arena and the scoreboard. The fact that the arena is street level, gives a good vibe to neighbors, who are glad to not see a skyscraper in the middle of Brooklyn.

The area of the massive structure is about 675,000 square feet. It can seat a whopping number of around 19,000 people. The rows of seats are steeply stacked, so everyone gets a great view. The crowd circulation is very good and everyone that responded said that the staff is very friendly. You even get free WIFI while you’re there! The restaurants inside the stadium are all Brooklyn established, such as Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Brooklyn Cupcakes. The people of Brooklyn were very happy about this because it gave a nice Brooklyn feel to it.

There is a plethora of events that go on inside this gigantic stadium. From rock concerts and rap concerts to basketball games and hockey games. They are also hoping to host tennis games in the near future. One of the main reasons that this stadium was built was to house the Brooklyn Nets. Perhaps this is a means to increase revenue for the team, because it is proven that New York City affiliated teams make the most revenue.

The location of this operation was a total work of genius. It is easily accessible by public transportation including eleven bus lines and eleven subway lines. Barclay’s Center promotes everyone to take advantage of its accessibility and go to the events.

People, especially architects say that the Barclay’s center is an “anti-Manhattan monument”. By this they mean that this structure is different of Manhattan and its glass or titanium buildings. It is “tougher and stronger” just like the borough it is in. Also the unevenly colored panels are similar to Brooklyn’s brownstone buildings.

Now there are some questions that must be asked. Will the Brooklyn Nets have a better season now that they’re in New York City? How will this newfound gem be beneficial to the people of Brooklyn? Do you think introducing Brooklyn to more urban buildings such as the Barclay’s Center will make it more like Manhattan? Is this a way of “cleaning up” some of the bad parts of Brooklyn?

Fresh Paint – “This Little Rothko Went to Market”

Even in times of economic crisis, the value of art never truly drops. According to Carol Vogel in his article “This Little Rothko Went to Market”, art collectors tend to spend millions of dollars on paintings, drawings, and sculptures in times of economic crisis. Some collectors feel safer by turning their cash into artworks in the time of the euro crisis and American recession, while others feel safer selling their art in times of crisis. While the stock market fell 3% in September, auction and private sales “remained robust,” as Marc Porter stated, and had an increase in new buyers. Thus the market for art is ever expanding and growing.

Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury & Company are hosting auctions in New York this month in order to capitalize on the collectors’ plights. Many collectors will be attending the auctions that will be hosting artworks ranging from millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. With the future of the American politics uncertain, many American sellers have been selling their art in case the 28% tax on fine art increases. Artworks from Monet, to Rothko, to Picasso are being auctioned, but mostly to appeal to the new collectors whose preferences are still unclear. The savviest art collectors, Steven A. Cohen, Peter M. Brant, Stephen A. Wynn, and Douglas S. Cramer, will be attending the two week long auction season along with the crowd of new collectors in hopes of purchasing famed blue chip artworks.

Mark Rothko’s “No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue).”

As Brett Gorvy said, in the article, “its an icon market.” Art collectors buy the best, they buy the most expensive, and for what purpose? For bragging rights? For making profits? Is the value of a work of art the price it is given? From reading this article, it seems as though art collectors aren’t buying art, but rather a safety net for investment and a status in the art world. Collectors aren’t appreciating the beauty and magnificence of these works of art, but are appreciating the price tags given in the auction houses instead. Personally, I believe that art should be shared and appreciated by everyone, not kept hidden in someone’s house or storage facility waiting to be auctioned off in the light of economic gain.

On Scrapbooks

In showcasing your scrapbook to us next week, prepare to speak concisely for 4-5 minutes. You can shape your presentation around:

-Your theme: what it means to you, the choices you made and what you want us to take away.

-An example: how’d you go about the design and layout of content: what kind of viewer/visitor experience are you targeting—do you want visitors to get to know you first or launch into a memory, follow a certain sequence, move between text, image, audio, and so on.

-Ask feedback on a specific aspect of the design, technical components, or content that is giving you a problem or you are unsure about.