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Archive for October 26th, 2021

Building Bastille

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The Tangled and Improbable Story of the Opera Bastille

This is a documentary that was broadcast last night on Knowledge Network. We got it by streaming but it may well be available elsewhere.

And once again instead of my opinions and typos here is what I got from Zoot Pictures

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In 1982 the new socialist French president Mitterrand opens  a blind competition, to build an opera at the  site of the notorious Bastille prison. The jury seems to have found the best design, by prominent American architect Richard Meier. Or so they thought.

Until the Minister of Culture blanches and stumbles through the name Carlos Ott, Canadian. No one has heard of him and he has never built anything.

Hastily informed, Carlos flies to Paris with an expired passport and is tossed into an airport holding cell for immediate deportment. Official panic ensues. Things get worse from there.

When right wing Jacques Chirac is elected Prime Minister, he hates socialist Mitterrand and works to stop the Opera. Carlos Ott receives Chirac`s stop work order with threats of prison, then the money is cut off. It seems all the sacrifice was for naught.

But, like French politics, nothing is what it appears.


Building Bastille is a feature length documentary that tells the comic, dramatic and tangled story of modern history’s greatest case of mistaken identity and seized opportunity, combining current footage with archival images, and original 16MM film.

Building Bastille is produced by Zoot Pictures Inc. in association with Knowledge Network, TVO, RDI, SRC and with the participation of the Canadian Media Fund, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, and the Manitoba Film and Video Production Tax Credit. Produced with the participation of the Rogers Documentary Fund.

Building Bastille was developed in association with Knowledge Network, the Canadian Media Fund and Manitoba Film and Music

Distributed Worldwide by:   Ampersand

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The reason I am doing this is that when I published my picture of the Opera Bastille on flickr I wrote a slab of text that I have now come to regret. I feel the need to make amends. Not that my tastes in architecture have changed, but I wrote in ignorance. In Paris we had visited Opera Garnier, and greatly enjoyed walking around the auditorium and some of the building that was open to visitors. They were even polite enough to listen to our request for any tickets that might have been available. We ought to have known that they are as rare as hen’s teeth. In fact that was one reason why Mitterand wanted to build a new, bigger opera house in Paris. Opera was – and is – very popular but the existing building was just too small. Mitterand wanted not just a monument to his presidency – though it is that – but for somewhere ordinary people could go to enjoy the opera. Even ignorant tourists. When we got to the Opera Bastille there was some kind of demo going on for legalising pot. The doors were almost certainly locked against invasion. Anyway, we didn’t go back or even try to find out what was on, and what ticketing availability was like. I now think we ought to have done. And of course while I was aware that the new opera was a controversial project in the early eighties, I had my own concerns back then and had not yet decamped to Canada. So I did not know this engrossing story nor did I feel any kind of connection to the place. In fact while this was the site of the notorious prison it was also later the site of a large railway station. That had been closed and the viaduct converted into a delightful linear park the Passage Plantée. If anything I was a bit sad that the railway had closed: I have always had the feeling that we should hang on to railways and not turn them so readily into trails. In Paris they have been a bit more imaginative – and they have won much more convenience and service value by their skill at insertion of tramways into boulevards. So I am afraid that I was a bit prejudiced against the project from the start.

Do try and see this movie. It is well worth your time.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 26, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Posted in architecture

Rigged

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I do get a lot of press releases. It had not occurred to me that at one time such things were rare, and that someone had to invent them. It turns out that was Ivy Ledbetter Lee – someone I had never heard of – early in the twentieth century.

“Before Lee, companies had a pretty adversarial relationship with the press and vice versa. Lee thought businesses would do better to tell journalists more of their story themselves. It was so unusual that when he first began sending press releases to The New York Times, the paper printed them verbatim.”

So I had better not do that then. Except that I really do not know much more about this new web site other than what I read in the Press Release and what I found when I went to that link to find out that was there.

I do think that misinformation is a problem. It is not confined to one country, although this one commits itself to “the history of disinformation in America” by which I take it to be the United States. Having just read “Cuba“, I am more than usually alert to this misleading name given to just one part of a very large continent. Or Two. America includes Canada, Mexico and everywhere else all the way down to Tierra del Fuego. Misinformation bedevils all of that and most other places too. We call it Public Relations but its true name is propaganda. There really is not much of a distinction anymore between “spin” and flat out lies. Anyway, it seems to me that this web site will be a useful resource, and it is also unlikely to get a great deal of coverage from the sort of media outlets that rely on PR for so much of their content because they have gotten rid of most their real journalists.

So everything from this point onwards is indeed from the Press Release, but I do urge my readers to go check out rigged.media

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Today, just ahead of Congress’s Big Oil disinformation hearings this Thursday, independent investigative climate journalist Amy Westervelt launches Rigged, a new web project and companion podcast focused on the history and functionality of disinformation. It’s a rich archive of rare or never-seen disinformation material that Amy has dug up over years of research. 

“I started Rigged because I realized I had hundreds of documents on my desk that weren’t doing any good there, and that could be useful to other reporters working on stories about disinformation, ranging from climate denial and Covid hoaxers to the Big Lie around the election,” Westervelt explains. “There’s a general sense out there that disinformation is a relatively new thing, and I think it’s important for people to understand that it’s more than a century old, that American corporations invented many of the techniques we’re still seeing today, and that it was created largely to help American industry circumvent democracy when it needed to.” 

The website offers a rich archive of documents, many rarely or never-before seen, which Westervelt organizes and puts into context. Through her original reporting and writing, she demonstrates that disinformation is not only not a new phenomenon from Russia or Facebook, but it even predates Big Oil and Big Tobacco’s adoption of science denial. Westervelt also introduces readers to some of the key figures in the rise of disinformation, like Standard Oil publicist Ivy Lee, the self-proclaimed “father of public relations” Edward Bernays, corporate exec-whisperer Earl Newsom, tobacco spinmaster Daniel Edelman, and many more. A companion podcast, also called Rigged, will tell some of their stories in vivid detail. The first episode, “Fake Experts and Real Bacon,” explores how Beech-Nut food company publicist Edward Bernays convinced doctors to tell Americans that a heavier breakfast was healthier, thus giving birth to the “classic American breakfast” and sending bacon sales soaring. Rigged is available now on all podcast platforms.

Amy Westervelt is the founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, and an award-winning print and audio journalist. She contributes to The Guardian, The Nation, and Rolling Stone, and has previously contributed to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, KQED, The California Report, Capital Public Radio, and many other outlets. In 2007, she won a Folio for her feature on the potential of algae as a feedstock for biofuel. In 2015 she was awarded a Rachel Carson award for “women greening journalism”, in 2016 she won an Edward R. Murrow award for her series on the impacts of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada, in 2019 she won the Online News Association award for “Excellence in Audio Storytelling,” and in 2021 she won Covering Climate Now’s audio award. As the head of Critical Frequency, she has executive produced more than a dozen podcasts, including projects with Stitcher’s Witness Docs and Crooked Media. Her book “Forget Having It All: How America Messed Up Motherhood, and How to Fix It” was published in November 2018 by Seal Press.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 26, 2021 at 11:31 am

Posted in Misinformation

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