Open Thread: Arcs and Sparks

I’m writing most of this post nearly a week before this will actually publish. Since I first began blogging 15 years ago, I can’t think of a time when I couldn’t write a casual, evergreen piece without worrying what would happen between the time I first began typing and the post published. Now? I hope the Reichstag fire of our age has not been sparked by the time you read this and I finish clicking the Schedule Post button.

I guess if the Fire 2.0 has come, you’re probably too busy to read this anyhow. Why should I worry?

This week’s featured art is by Polish painter Jacek Malczewski. I had the privilege once of seeing some of his work during a trip to Europe. Words can’t convey the intensity, the palpable power of his painting. It feels as if it will fall out of the canvas at one’s feet in a fury of energy. This particular piece, Melancholia, is probably his most famous. It traces a narrative arc from left to right — how very western! — which nearly spills over the front bottom edge of the 4.5-foot by 8-foot canvas. The arc describes emergence of both the artist and Poland, from conception in the interior of an artist’s studio toward the open window and the sunlight beyond, from insurgency and exile to Young Poland of age and strife. The window’s sill forms a barrier, a limit beyond which death may exist, but whose limit, whose death? what an amazing amount of content crammed into this painting; I wish I could have found a better digital image to do it justice.

I asked in last Saturday’s open thread/art post for readers to consider this untitled piece by Zdzisław Beksiński. Beksiński may have been inspired by Malczewski’s Melancholia in his depiction of a surrealist gothic arc; this one is so dark, so tight that a narrative is nearly impossible to decipher. It, too, emerges from the left and transits to the right, but from a bright formless void to a bricked up exit. It is more melancholy than Malczewski’s work in its darkness. One of Beksiński’s more obvious nods to Malczewski’s Melancholia spells out ‘Melancolia’ without the frantic rush of history’s sweep — only death and decay.

You can find a nice selection of Malczewski’s work at this link, and a solid overview of his career as a Polish symbolist at

Non-arts stuff (if it’s not mentioned here, bring your topic downstairs in comments):

PGA Tour — Okay, I admit it, maybe one of the pasty white guys in golf togs might have mixed it up and added a little excitement this week — by slapping an alligator. Youngster Cody Gribble chased the reptile into a pond and then finished his round; sadly, at six over after Day 2, Gribble isn’t expected to make the cut. The tour’s at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando this week. Kind of a shame I’m rooting for more gators on the course in the deep rough.

NCAA March Madness — Live bracket here. A bunch of whining about the NBA’s one-and-done rule here, possibly explaining away any boring matches which are complained about here. C’mon, these players are teenagers, well-trained but still like puppies. Stop expecting miracles.

And who knew that guys schedule their vasectomies in March so they can lie about and watch basketball while nursing their bruised ‘nads? But you can only use that excuse once, dudes. Next year you can schedule a hernia repair. Make plans now to lift something obscenely heavy in December or January.

NFLThe draft. Because somebody noticed I omitted it on first pass last week. ~shrug~ Must say NFL is a dreadful abuser of autoplay embedded video.

Football — No, the other football. UEFA Europa League competition starts soon, with quarter-final draw yesterday. Check the matches here. UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw also made with next games scheduled for April 11-12. Some drama in Europa League surrounding the win over Russia’s FC Rostov involving a banana. Sadly, not as exciting as a golfing alligator.

NASCAR — At Phoenix International Raceway this week for the XFINITY Series DC Solar 200 (first short track this year) on Saturday and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500 on Sunday.

NHL — I give up. Detroit Red Wings are still in the goddamn basement of the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. You go and make up your own filler here after reading the current standings. And I am really sick of the girls rubbing Dallas Stars’ Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn photos in my face, going on and on about Tyler’s abs. This week’s win over Vancouver Canucks forced me to shut off my Twitter notifications because of the flood of photos.

NBA — I just don’t care. Although I must say I laughed out loud when I noticed the top story in my feed was this one. Oh yeah, that’ll change everything.

MLB — Same. And really, is there such a desperate need for content that writers are reduced to stories like this? Here’s a mid-spring training report, but holy wah, what a godawful layout on desktop displays. You’ve been warned.

If I missed something, bring it downstairs with you and share.

32 days until Tax Day deadline. Do you know where your deductions are?

Open Thread: Don’t Forget Poland!

Recall the quaint mid-Oughts during the 2004 presidential debates, when Dubya corrected his opponent John Kerry with, “You forgot Poland!

Ah, those were the days, when an illegal war and torture were our biggest concerns.

Unlike now when nearly everything liberal democracy represents is in flames and ashes.

Last month I looked at a couple of works by Norwegian artist Munch; his Angst and The Scream still speak to us about existential crises. This month I want to look at a few works by Polish artists who also seem relevant to our condition.

Like Zdzisław Beksiński’s The Trumpeter featured here; how fitting with its many-fingered creepy playing. It’s fairly contemporary, published in 1983, and used as cover art for metal band Artestor’s album, ‘Omen’. Beksiński characterized his art as baroque or gothic. Hard to argue against this description given the wealth of dark detail. Some of Beksiński’s work reminds me of Swiss artist H.R. Giger’s monstrous surrealism like that used in the film Alien.

Take note of this piece featured in a write-up about Beksinski in a favorite art magazine. I’ll make reference to it next weekend when I look at another Pole’s work.

Sadly, Beksiński was murdered in 2005 for refusing to loan a young man some money. He left behind a wealth of work which will stir our imaginations for years to come. You can find more of his work at Dmochowski Gallery online.

Non-artsy stuff:

NCAA Basketball‘s March Madness begins on Tuesday. ESPN has key tournament dates. NCAA offers a bracket challenge to follow along.

NHL Hockey regular season ends April 9. Come on, Red Wings, please don’t finish this season dead last. Only a month to claw over the bottom two. For crying out loud don’t roll over for the NY Rangers on Sunday or I’ll never hear the end of it from the girls. It’ll be all “Oh, that Mats Zuccarello this and that, he’s so cute…” Just, no.

PGA Tour is at Innisbrook Resort for the Valspar Invitational this weekend. Thankfully for tourney players and attendees Innisbrook is in Palm Harbor, Florida — the opposite side of the state from Mar-a-Lago. I can’t get excited about the tour, though; these guys at the top of the leader board are like watching paste set up.

NASCAR this week is in Las Vegas for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. So redundant, that line, but it is what it is. Not my thing, but I need to pay attention to this since my prospective son-in-law is a big NASCAR fan.

UPDATE 2:32 PM EST NFL Free Agency because somebody downstairs noticed I had ignored a professional sport about which I don’t care, now in post-season. You’ll notice I didn’t originally mention the NBA (one month left in regular season) or the MLB (three weeks before regular season opening day) or the MLS (regular season started a week ago) either.

Next thing you know somebody will ask, “What about horse racing?” Yeah. And what about Poland?

That’s a wrap. This is an open thread — bring your arts and sports and whatever here which doesn’t belong in topic threads.

Wednesday: This One Day

In this roundup: British fascists rise, smart fridge serves porn, and a Zika overview.

Today’s featured short film by Crystal Moselle is about finding one’s tribe, finding one’s place, crossing the threshold to adulthood in the safety of community. Men may not feel this one as keenly as women will. Many of us are skating alone, running into obstacles set before us simply because we are. With a little support we could skate the world.

Love how Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl plays us out at the end. That.

Brexit and broken

  • Ian Dunt: Tories have become Ukip ( — Op-ed looks at UK’s Conservative Party and its aggressive shift toward white nationalism.
  • No joke: UK’s Home Secretary sounds like a Nazi (LBC) — Seriously, read the link. Can’t tell Amber Rudd’s speech from Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
  • The Daily Mail as Tories’ key influencer (OpenDemocracy) — Anthony Barnett looks at the Mail’s succession to Murdoch’s right-wing propaganda mill. The Mail was one of the two largest traditional media influences on right-wing politicians and Brexit voters (the other being NewsCorp’s The Sun); an American parallel would be the shift in media influence on public opinion as Fox News gave way to a more rightest, Trump-friendly CNN. We don’t trust CNN any more than we do Fox, and the UK shouldn’t trust the Mail any more than it should trust The Sun.
  • Theresa May’s Tory Conference speech: fascism wearing a progressive mask (VICE) — May isn’t well known by either UK or US public; her speech this week to her own party gave us a better look at the politician, and she’s not at all pretty. May uses progressive language to make her case, but what she’s really pushing is outright fascism.
  • Unwinding a country rich in diversity (OpenDemocracy) — University of Birmingham lecturer and Oxford University research associate Nando Sigona looks at the United Kingdom as an EU citizen. How does a small but densely populated country — land mass the size of Michigan with a population equal to California and Texas combined — move away from the diversity which has made it rich for millennia? Imagine one of those U.S. states (MI/CA/TX) suddenly telling anyone not ‘native’ to that state to leave; what would it do to that state, let alone the people who must leave? It’s not tenable.
  • 80th anniversary of East London’s Battle of Cable Street (Guardian) — The British have apparently forgotten their history and are now condemned to repeat it. Who is this generation’s Oswald Mosely: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove, Theresa May? With attacks on immigrants increasing, the new blackshirts already make their presence known; they only lack a Mosely.

Still skeptical about Tories’ aggression? Just look at this tweet from Tim Colburne, former deputy chief of staff for LibDem Party’s Nick Clegg. This is not the work of a party working for business interests. We are watching a new Nazism rapidly engulfing the United Kingdom. I doubt it will remain united much longer at this pace.

Keep in mind some of the foreign workers and children the Tories (and Ukip) want identified are U.S. citizens.

Elsewhat, elsewhere

Cybernia, ho!

  • Ireland not happy about the Yahoo email scandal (ITNews-AU) — Ireland wants to know if Yahoo’s scanning emails on behalf of U.S. government compromises Irish citizens’ privacy. Germany’s Fabio de Masi, a member of the European Parliament, has also asked for more details. Yahoo’s scanning could put the brakes on a US-EU data sharing agreement.
  • Alleged terror plotter charged, had operating system in cufflink (Guardian) — Located in Cardiff, Wales, the accused also possessed a book on missile guidance and control; he was responsible for a blog with information about Isis and cyber-security guidance.
  • Smart refrigerator – now with Pornhub (The Register) — Didn’t manufacturers clue in about so-called smart refrigerators a couple years ago after they were hacked? Clearly not if it’s still possible to hijack displays on Internet of Things devices for porn.

Longread: Overview on Zika
This is a decent meta piece in Omni magazine. Article also points out simple preventive interventions to reduce Zika infections: air conditioning and window screens. Also suggests implementing these in Africa where other arbovirus diseases are endemic, like yellow fever, dengue, chikunguya as well as Zika — except AC will create a greater demand for electricity as well as manufacturing pressure for screens. Also doesn’t really deal with the fact more people are outside during daylight hours in warmer climates, and those who work outdoors (like farmers) have no choice. More comprehensive research on arboviruses is needed and work toward vaccines is probably cheaper, faster, and less taxing to the environment than scaling up electricity and manufacturing. Worth a read if flawed.

Phew. That’s enough for today. Thankfully it’s downhill from here. Catch you later!

Monday: American Mouth

In this roundup: Volkswagen vacillations, disappointments a la Colombia, UK, Hungary (and don’t forget Poland!), anthropocene extinction, and maybe a straggling bit at the end to get this Monday on the road. Read more

Poland’s Torture Palaces

My supposition that one reasons Dana Priest’s black site article precipitated the torture tape destruction is because the tapes were dangerous to the country on whose territory the CIA tortured Abu Zubaydah led to me to read something I should have already read–the July 2007 COE report on European participation in the US HVD program. This post lays out what it says about Poland. I’m still reading the report, but given the direction of the comment threads on my other posts, I wanted to get this up for discussion.

Assuming the COE report is accurate (it is based on public reports and anonymous sources, including a number of CIA sources), Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and probably al-Nashiri, were in Poland when Dana Priest’s article ran.

In accordance with the operational arrangements described below, Poland housed what the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre considered its “most sensitive HVDs,” a category which included several of the men whose transfer to Guantanamo Bay was announced by President Bush on 6 September 2006.

We received confirmations – each name from more than one source – of eight names of HVDs who were held in Poland between 2003 and 2005. Specifically, our sources in the CIA named Poland as the “black site” where both Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohamed (KSM) were held and questioned using “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The information known about these interrogations has formed the basis of heated debate in the United States and the wider international community, leading, in Zubaydah’s case, to high-level political and legislative manoeuvres and, in KSM’s case, to the admission of some troubling judicial precedents.

But it remains unclear on whether Abu Zubaydah was moved to Poland in 2002 or 2003. The report describes the HVD program as evolving between 2002 and 2003.

The United States negotiated its agreement with Poland to detain CIA High-Value Detainees on Polish territory in 2002 and early 2003. We have established that the first HVDs were transferred to Poland in the first half of 2003.

It describes top-level Polish officials as being aware of the program starting in 2002.

[S]ome individual high office-holders knew about and authorised Poland’s role in the CIA’s operation of secret detention facilities for High-Value Detainees on Polish territory, from 2002 to 2005.

And it describes the genesis of the program as starting in 2001. Read more