Sunday, 11 May 2014

Post 13 : Outsourcing / Offshoring

          This cartoon takes place in the Cayman Islands, mainly known as it is a tax haven : a country where taxes are set at a very low range, or even don't exist. On the island, we can see Mitt Romney, who ran for president in 2012 against Obama, who actually won. Romney is digging a hole in the sand in order to bury his own treasure, his money, so he doesn't pay any taxes. He is explaining the benefits of outsourcing and off shoring in a very explicit way to a couple of people who are sitting on a boat that has written 'Believin' in America' on it. They seem to be very excited about what Granpa Mitt is telling them, and they say that he should be president. In the background of the cartoon, we can also see two other islands : Bermuda and Switzerland, who are also known as tax havens. This cartoon criticizes in a very ironical way multiple things : how politicians and important figures in the economic background are involved in illegal and scandalous actions concerning money, but also how people are blind and still want them to stay as politicians. 

         This second cartoon shows two business man, as we can imagine, that discuss what they shall do make more benefits. One of them proposes to offshore to another country, and seems scandalized as he explains that the 'folks' wanted more than jobs, which he assures they offered thousands. The other guy asks what they wanted, and he replies 'getting paid'. The other is even more scandalized that the first. The cartoon itself is very simple : the drawing consists on just the two business man, with the text. That's all, but we can imagine that the author wanted us to focus more on the meaning of the cartoon than the pictures. At the bottom, it says : 'Simply explained, Part 10 : offshoring'. The cartoonist intends to explain in a humorous way how the business men deal with things, how they think, and, what is way more scandalous, is the greed that they show all along the cartoon. The benefits of offshoring are also that you can use cheap workers from another country, so you don't pay them as much as your local workers. Nevertheless, it seems that they would like to make them work for free... 

          In conclusion, we can say that these two cartoons have a very similar meaning, the message is quite the same : greed has pushed us into doing things such as offshoring and outsourcing in order to make more benefits, thanks to the cheap working conditions of the workers abroad, and because you don't have to pay the same taxes. These two cartoons can be related to the notion of 'Spaces and exchanges', as they tackle the idea of economical exchanges, and dividing companies, outsourcing them into different spaces throughout the world.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

R.E.M. - Every Day is Yours to Win

               R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry. One of the first popular alternative rock bands, R.E.M. gained early attention because of Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's unclear vocals. R.E.M. released its first single, "Radio Free Europe", in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. Through some changes in musical style, the band continued its career into the next decade with mixed critical and commercial success, despite having sold over 85 million records worldwide.[4] In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. R.E.M. disbanded amicably in September 2011, announcing the split on its website.

"Every Day is Yours to Win," is a ballad that sounds like it's from Reveal, but a bizarre alternate universe version of Reveal that's actually enjoyable. Hell, the beatnik poetry meets Patti Smith that is "Blue" has no real equivalent in the band's catalog, and is quite enjoyable because of it.

This song written by R.E.M. is quite a singular one. It is at the same time a really simple song, but that doesn't make it any worse, as it helps to focus properly on the lyrics, which seem to be the central element of the song. The sweet, clean and reverberated arpeggios of the electric guitar mixed with the insistent drums give a bitter-and-sweet-ish (yes, I invented this) sound, making this song unique. The vocals seem to be a little distant (yeah, that famous phone effect), but nevertheless they are very present in the song. The chorus comes in with a one-note distorted guitar riff, and that breaks with the previous fragile verse. Finally, the song fades out with the clean guitar that we heard in the verses. We can definitely say that this song worth listening !

The video clip made for the band is quite singular : it shows some extracts of videos of unknown people doing different things that are not connected with each other. Maybe they represent those heroes that the lyrics mention ('and that's how heroes are made'), but in a way that they are painted as everyday heroes, the standard people. Also, as those videos are obviously made for the Youtube site web, they are trying to get some views, to be known. The song makes references to the time passing ('with the clock, tik tok'), and the fact that nothing is easy in life ('it's not all cherry pie'), but its worth fighting for ('its out there waiting for you'). That can surely be connected to those strangers that had the luck to appear on the official clip of one of the most well-known bands nowadays...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

POST 10 : Into the Wild

This movie deals with the theme of nature, where a young man starts a new life in order to disconnect with our society. We could relate this to the notion of spaces and exchanges, as nature is a different space in which the human being is not normally pleased. We can relate this as well with the theme of myths and heroes, because we can interpret the plot as an actualization of the myth of the good savage that consists in associating an uncivilized men with a good soul and good intentions. He can be also considered as a hero, because, like many other heroes, he has a quest and lofty goals. Finally, this movie can also be related to the notion of progress as this movie deals also with the excessive ways of life that we are living in our society, and all due to progress. This is the main reason why this young man leaves the civilized world. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dusty Early Morning

          As this is a free post, I decided to talk about something special : Dusty Early Morning. This is the name of the album from my Blue Time Blue, that is ready to be published. 

We are not really a band, because we are only two members : my friend Erik Da Silva (guitars and vocals) and myself (guitars, bass, vocals, and production). But as we are not able to play more instruments, we had some special guests to play for the album, such as a drummer, a sax player, two singers and a piano player. 

This project comes from back in 2011, when Erik and I met. We started doing some music just for fun, but we both wanted to compose our own stuff. Besides, we have a lot of music tastes in common, so that made it all really easier. So we've been working on this project during two years, until every song was ready to be recorded. We did the drum takes in April, but we didn't really start recording until this summer. At the beginning of September, I mixed all the songs and did the last takes. There we go. 

       Recording the drums.

The D.E.M. record is composed by 10 songs, and has a length of 33 minutes. The genre of music is not quite well defined, as it is a mix of progressive rock, with influences of alternative rock. Its sort of making new stuff with old one. 

A really important aspect of this record is that it is a concept album. We could even say it gets close an opera-rock because of the story which has a beginning and end, with characters and a setting, but its not as long and complex as Pink Floyd's Wall or The Who's Tommy.

Setting up for the recording sessions...

This is basically the story of Dusty Early Morning...

1) The Crimson March :

The story starts with a flashback of the end of the story (the second part of the last song is a reprise of the Crimson March). It is basically an invitation to the march that the characters are living, as they are trapped in the desert. 

2) On the Way :

Here is where the story starts. Its a band going on tour, and they're full of joy and hope. But the plane crashes in the middle of a desert, getting all the members lost in different places. They will have to face themselves, their fears, etc...

3) Dusty Early Morning :

It is the awakening of one of the members that describes the landscape and expresses the fact that he is completely lost. 

4) Dreaming With Flowers :

This song talks about a girl that is overwhelmed by isolation and drowns herself into the river of some oasis.

5) I'd Like to Join You Too :

One of the members describes seeing the girl getting herself drown b the waters, and says that he would actually like to join her because of the difficult situation. 

6) Monster Under My Bed :

The monster is a metaphor of all the fears that the characters could be experimenting, but in the end, the monster is only in their head.

7) A Brighter Sun (Part 1) :

This is a song of hope where the character asks the sun to lead him, instead of hiding himself behind the clouds. 

8) Les Braises :

This song does not really make part of the story. It starts with a speech of Allende, right before he gets killed by a bomb. This is follow by a succession of bass tracks that increase the tension of the song to symbolize the horror that Chile live at that moment. 

9) Walk Under the Rain :

Getting back to the story, it starts to rain. So the main idea is to 'let the rain take it all away'. 

10) A Brighter Sun (Part 2) :

The album closes with an instrumental song, that as I said before, is a reprise of the Crimson March.

D.E.M. should be released in December by the Cd Baby corporation, and sold on iTunes, Amazon, etc...
Here can be heard the first song the album.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

'' A Basterd's work is never done ''

               In 2009, Inglorious Basterds was released. This movie by Quentin Tarantino is considered by many as a masterpiece. The plot is actually a western that takes place in the occupied France by the Nazis during the World War II. The name of the first chapter is 'Once Upon a Time in occupied France', which is a clear reference to Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. The story of the film is composed of different plots that find each other at some point. The main one is the 'Inglorious Basterds' : a group of non-official Jewish soldiers under the orders of Lt. Aldo Raine, and they have one mission, which is killing Nazis in the cruelest way possible. There is also the story of Shoshanna Dreyfus, a Jewish girl that escaped from death when the Colonel Hans Landa (a.k.a. the Jew Hunter) killed all her family that was hiding in a French's home. She will go to Paris, and work in a movie theater that she will own at the owner's death. 

Even if this movie takes place in a historical context, there is no pretension of making it real. This is NOT a documentary of the WWII, it is a fictional story that shows how the war should have ended according to Tarantino. What makes this movie interesting is : the perfection of the script, as some scenes are just long conversations where there is no action, but it never gets boring ; the analogy between this movie and a classic western film ; and the filming techniques which reveal Tarantino's talent of making movies. 

This movie can be clearly related to the notion of power in many different ways. The most obvious one is the military power, as we see the strength of these armed american soldiers fighting the Nazis, and organizing their forces and strategies. We can see as well the power of media, which is the one the Basterds use to scare the Nazis, as they appear on the newspaper whenever they make an assault. They get to build a hole reputation between the Germans, and that is what gives them strength, The rumors is also a theme that appears repeatedly in the movie, which can be considered as a form of power. These rumors are the names that each soldier receives from the enemy. Aldo Raine is called the Apache, as he makes his soldiers scalp their victims. The colonel Hans Landa is called the Jew Hunter. Many names are given, as the reputation of each character grows in the movie. The power of media is also shown by the presence of Joseph Goebbles, minister of propaganda in Germany at the time, which makes a movie called The Nation's Pride, that deals with the story of Frederick Zolla, a german soldier that killed around 300 soldiers all by himself.  This theme is ridiculed as the movie is just a compilation of violent scenes of Zolla, which interprets the character in the movie himself.

Finally, we can also talk about the power of the director, Tarantino, which owns a special power : the power of changing the past. This is a movie, so the director is completely allowed to change what happened, and do it the way he wants it to be. And that is what makes the movie amazing, even it raised some controversial themes, and some people did criticize the movie for treating such a delicate theme as the WWII in a humorous way. Anyway, this is certainly his masterpiece up to this point of his career. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Post 7 - THE NOTION OF POWER (as exemplified in Brian De Palma's Redacted movie)

          These three videos are trailers from Brian de Palma's Redacted, released in 2007. This movie is a criticism to the Irak war which has been (and is) a very controversial theme. Being based on real events, the characteristic of the film is the realism of the filming techniques, as if the camera was in the field, which makes it really realistic. The cruelty of war is shown by really shocking images from the fighting scenes.

This can be clearly related to the notion of power, because of the behavior of the American soldiers in Irak shown in the movie. The movie is done as if it was the 'unseen' things that media did hide from us, which is also a hard critic to the control of information by the media. It can also be related to the notion of power as the media is a form of power that can control the public opinion and knowledge. It is clearly thanks to this kind of controversial movies that the truth can be revealed to everyone. 

Synopsis :

This film is about the real-life rape and killing of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers with shocking images that will leave some viewers in tears.

Inspired by one of the most serious crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, it spares the audience no brutality to get its message across.
Made in a deliberately episodic form, Redacted tells various stories about the war in Iraq, ostensibly from different viewpoints. One film portion by a French filmmaker tells the story of U.S. soldiers watching over checkpoints. In another episode, a superior soldier makes a casual mistake dealing with garbage that was set out in a road and is blown to bits. It's all leading to the pivotal rape and murder of the pretty girl who is discovered by the soldiers on a raid of an Iraqi house in order to find evidence. One night, the drunken and mostly morally lost U.S. soldiers discuss going back for the "skank" whom they saw in the house they raided. One soldier straps a camera to his helmet, and the footage of the girl's rape is secured.
The rest of the film mostly deals with measures taken by the army against the criminals. A final scene has a soldier from the criminals' unit confessing to his friends a war story that he will never forget: the plundering and murder of the Iraqi girl.

Review :

Despite the many criticisms by others on this site, Redacted is a compelling film based on an actual incident that occurred in Baghdad in 2006. Yes, the acting leaves something to be desired, the 'mixed-media' approach is distracting, and there are some manipulative moments (the beheading, the final still); But this is still an eye-opening film on the state of events in Iraq and the trials that *both* Iraqis and Americans have to deal with daily. The scenes at the checkpoint are particularly well done. Some of the dialog between the soldiers in the unit is compelling in its own way; Similarly so the scenes with the Iraqi reporters and 'embeds.'

I've seen all the recent films about Iraq ('Valley of Elah', 'Lions for Lambs', 'Rendition' ) and think that 'Redacted' provides insights none of the others do. In particular, it does an excellent job illustrating the clash between the respective cultures of Iraq and America. (50% of Iraqis can't read the signs at US checkpoints!) 

Is this film a bit of an unholy mess? Yes, but see it anyway and make your own mind up. I think this one deserves at least a 6 out of 10.