Monday, 20 September 2021

gwot

With the current climate twenty years on and comparable numbers of lives lost and lives impacted on a daily basis due to the pandemic and our trenchant, asocial behaviour and a resurgent Taliban controlling Afghanistan, it feels a bit hollow marking the anniversaries of the events that unfolded domestically and internationally in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 Attacks. The Bush doctrine, however—first characterised to the press as a “war of terrorism” on 16 September and then presented formally as a global “war on terror” in an address to a joint-session of the US Congress on this day in 2001, labeling “our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them” has an outsized legacy that impacts nearly every aspect of our lives.   Despite consternation and criticism with this approach, the policy went forward with consequences around the world. Though his predecessor, US President Barak Obama, avoided the term and declared the conflict over on 23 May 2013, stating the that the US military forces and intelligence agencies could not and would prosecute a war against a tactic, instead styling the commitment as world police as Overseas Contingency Operations and substantively continuing, even expanding America’s role.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

amerithrax

Beginning a week after the 9/11 attacks and continuing over the next month, a bioterrorist—likely a scientist at the US government’s biodefense and research labs in Fort Detrick, Maryland—posted letters laced with anthrax spores to several media outlets and the offices of two US senators, killing five individuals, mostly mailroom staff and infecting a further dozen with the bacteria. Compared to the hunt for the Unabomber for its range and time to identify a culprit and motive, the FBI operation named with the above portmanteau pursued a number of false leads, the attacks spawning, several copycat hoaxes. The notes in the envelops which purported to come from a non-existent grade school contained variations on the message:

09-11-01
YOU CANNOT STOP US.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.
YOU DIE NOW.
ARE YOU AFRAID?
DEATH TO AMERICA.
&c.

Al Qaeda and Iraq initially blamed, focus not turning to the possibility that it was a domestic actor within the government until 2006, forensic geneotyping just reaching the sophistication needed to trace the particular bacterial strain back to its source, though the ordered destruction of all anthrax stockpiles limited the chance for future research into the crime. The US mail service is still hyper-vigilant over suspicious packages and prone to false-alarms.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

a.i.

Via Waxy, we are treated to another instalment commemorating half a century of text gaming (see previously) with a retrospective look at the first major Alternate Reality play and the community of enthusiast who first embraced it with. The elaborate internet scavenger hunt called the Beast was made to promote the Steven Spielberg production the story of the then recently departed Stanley Kubrick touted as the blockbuster of the summer of 2001 about a sentient machine that wanted to be a real boy.  The curious were encouraged to search for hints by phone, fax and web and engaged with this immersive entertainment experience.

The interactive narrative that used entry points (coined as ‘rabbit holes’ and mirroring the plot of the movie as a sort of preview) embedded in merchandising and movie posters that take one through a network of specially created websites revolves around the investigation into a string of murders of humans and cyborgs after a cryptic message leads a doctor to believe the death in a boating accident of a colleague was more sinister than concluded. Much more at the link above and I believe followers at the time—predominately Yahoo! Groups Cloudmaker (name of the above vessel)—were wrapped up with what they knew to be just for fun, but I would if these leading clues and cues somehow informed today’s bent in favour of conspiratorial thinking and specious arguments bound together by red string.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

7x7

wait for the beep: a growing collection of found-sounds in the form of answering machine narratives—via Memo of the Air  

potatopoty: superlative tubers  

yaxety sax: string ensemble performs the 1968 instrumental from Spider Rich and Boots Randolph 

the metz address: Philip K. Dick (previously) speaks to an audience in 1977 at a sci-fi convention in France 

say taliban, move your minivans: November 2001 Saturday Night Live sketch “Kandahar Dance Party” recirculating to mixed responses 

dateline: Merv Griffin’s short-lived 1985 game show Headline Chasers  

dear friends of mine, please write a line in this little wash tubbs book of mine—help me keep you in my mind: a comic scrapbook chronicling the Great Depression, via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to see there)

Monday, 16 August 2021

spin boldak

Although prior commitments and pledges had already set withdrawal from Afghanistan in motion and the US is made to face the parallels and comparisons to the fall of Saigon that it tried to dismiss or downplay, it was a grave failure of the imagination to be shocked at the thinnest veneer of stability and superficial democratic values that the West brought—standards imposed—and expect it to be robust or enduring and not swept away in the power vacuum filled by the resurgent Taliban government. Like regime change in American itself that vacillates between extremes that does not bode reliability or ongoing responsibility, the abrupt abandonment set off a military offensive in May that saw one regional capital after another be subsumed by Taliban forces. As belligerents approached the capital city of Kabul, president Ashraf Ghani relinquished control and fled to Tajikistan, disestablishing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, replaced with the re-established Emirate, and the movement’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (released from a Pakistani jail in 2018 at the request of the US) assumed control, announcing from the busy airport where thousands are seeking to evacuate, that the “War is over!”

Monday, 28 June 2021

icty

Established by the United Nations Security Council in 1993 with special jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity incurred in the territories of the former Yugoslav Republic since its dissolution in 1991, on this day in 2001, Serbian president Slobodan Miloลกeviฤ‡ was extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague to stand trial for genocide. The date coincides with Miloลกeviฤ‡’s 1989 presiding over the sixth-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, commemorating the rather pyric victory of the Serbian army against Ottoman invaders and enflaming an already tense situation between different ethnic groups that shared the constituent republics. The date also coincides with assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a conspiracy of the Black Hand secret society, the Bosniak and Serb group hoping to foment unrest and outrage and secede from the Austro-Hungarian empire with the provinces reconstituted as an independent Yugoslavia.

Friday, 23 April 2021

halfway between the gutter and the stars

Featuring Bootsy Collins, the accompanying music video for the Big Beats artist Fatboy Slim’s 2000 “Weapon of Choice,” reprised on the occasion as a stand-alone single, directed by Spike Jonze, was first aired on this day in 2001. Depicting Christopher Walken dancing around an empty lobby, the choral refrain of “You could blow with this or you could blow with that” references the Native Tongues’ “The Choice is Yours”—the titular album an homage to Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (“some of us are looking at the stars”) and the lyric advising to “walk without rhythm and it won’t attract the worm” quotes Frank Herbert’s establishing novel.

Friday, 2 April 2021

i wanna hear those sugar bells ring

Reaching top spot on the American Hot R&B/Hip-Hop song charts on this day in 1988, Wishing Well from singer and songwriter Terence Trent D’Arby—now known as Sananda Maitreya having meditated for a new identity after the slow, agonising albeit noble death of his former self in October of 2001. Expressing high opinion of his debut album, D’Arby said it was the most significant recording since Sgt. Pepper, ultimately paid off.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

de twee bruidegommen

Passed by the Second Chamber (Tweede Kamer) of the States General and affirmed by the Senate during the December before, same-sex marriage (Homohuwelijk) became legal in the Netherlands on this day in 2001, the first country in modern times to sanction and recognise marriage equality. Registered partnerships were introduced on New Year’s 1998 as an alternative for homosexual couples, which under the law convey the same rights, duties and responsibilities as matrimony, and have since become nearly as popular as civil marriage among heterosexual couples as well.

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

deorbit

After fifteen years of service, funding running out its orbit degrading and the International Space Station crewed for the first time, on this day in 2001 over the course of five hours, Mir (previously) was decommissioned by a series of manoeuvres that caused the craft to graze the upper atmosphere and break up over the southern Pacific Ocean. Though no significant debris hit land or populated areas, residents in New Zealand and Japan were told to stay indoors as no object of this size had been subject to re-entry prior.

Friday, 11 September 2020

deceptive cadence

Back during the early 1980s composer William Basinski heard a snatch of music on the airwaves and quickly recorded the melody that it inspired and filed it away for use in a later project. Sitting forgotten until the summer of 2001, Basinski rediscovers the recording and plays it back.
The tape, however, was old and brittle and playing it back, it began to disintegrate both visually and audibly—Basinski, fascinated, captured its vanishing. Nearly finished remixing his Disintegration Loops at his New York studio on 11 September, his epic became an elegy. Fast-forward to the summer of 2019, Robin Sloan just acquainted with the moving orchestral piece—we discover courtesy of Things Magazine—had a neural network interpret the work with some surprising results and invites others to listen and contribute to his Integration Loop project.

blick von williamsburg, brooklyn, auf manhattan, 11. september 2001

Captured by photojournalist Thomas Hรถpker with five people sunning, relaxing along the shore of the East River in the foreground while a cloud of smoke billows over the World Trade Center in the background—seemingly oblivious is not the callous portrayal that controversy after it was first shown to the public in 2005 as part of a retrospective of fifty of his works but is a chance juxtaposition caught at just the right moment.
View the whole frame here—respecting the artist’s rights and the fact that it again seems provocative without context. The composition has been compared to works like Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1558 Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (that is actually a trope and the subject of several paintings at the time—not of Icarus’ actual crash but of the 1560s). Hรถpker was en route to Manhattan, having abandoned his car and proceeded on foot, continuing to take pictures.