That is one hot spy!


The "Secret-ista" Anna Chapman

    So after all the  fallout over “embedded” russian spies and the leaking of national secrets, the reporting public seems to only have the strength to spin the news towards  a more entertaining riff. Maybe this bieber-esque story  won’t cause any one to suddenly have a case of some ROD (reality onset depression) and go on a handgun assisted rampage. Seriously though, somehow the fact that 10 agents from a foreign government have been living in our country (probably among other nations’ spies too) collecting, sending, receiving sensitive information about various aspects of our infrastructure does not garner much serious attention?  All we can focus on is how these sub par spies  are doing now that they are successfully back in their home country. The biggest kick in the pants of all is the spotlight on the “femme fatale”, Anna Chapman, and how she  is so beautiful with her new-found (and potentially

"Salt" movie poster

commercial?) celebrity. Even still, I am at a loss at how it is  newsworthy or patriotic (a nonsensical “buzzword”) to report with glee that she has been offered a contract to star in a pornography or that the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie had sent the former spy an invitation to preview her new movie “Salt” (which is also about espionage).  For real? Are  publicity and a promoting of a  B-C grade film worth such attention given the circumstances? Is it because Mrs. Jolie adopts any and all of the worlds children that she is the titled “Mother for America” spokesperson  and her blessing is gospel? I guess we are all supposed to be good Americans and go see the movie now because apparently girls can also be sexy spies too and its related with current events.  This is nonsense! This country is so ridiculous in that we (as citizenry) cannot seem to hold our collective attention about any world oriented or national security crisis over whats happening on “The Real Housewives” or the next comic book movie adaptation.

     What does her position (Chapman) as a spy mean. Was it an accident? Was she conscripted? As a spy, I believe she made a conscious choice to serve her country’s interests. She is an enemy of our state of affairs. So what the hell is all the heightened interest in her whereabouts for? How would this have been  met during the 1980’s or 90′? I have  served in the regular military, meaning, I served in the overt portion of that armed services (Marines). I can say that from my experience that we were taught to fight and win by any and all means for our country.  Being a soldier in a nation’s army is most times, a conscious decision by an individual to be a part of that effort. I would imagine that being a covert agent requires a more than casual interest in supporting your country. She is not some young starlet looking to land herself a film debut on a casting couch or a hollywood movie hopeful, she is a government agent!!! My point is that we have caught actual (read: REAL)  spies among us. These spies have been caught during a time of war (on two, but soon may three or four fronts), a crippled finance sector,  and a time of natural disaster. The last time we were covertly infiltrated by a undercover unit, we trained those assets to fly the planes which they then used to select and destroy many critical targets en masse all over the Eastern U.S.!  And even  less notable to mention is the cost of innocent lives that where lost in these actions. Wake the hell up.

     So what is the reason for all of this E! styled reporting? Is all of this fanfare because the spies just happen look more like us? We have such a convoluted outlook on everything else in America such as beauty, skin color, baubles, cars and houses that maybe since the spies where “white” (i.e. “normal” looking) they would not mean us too much harm. Hell, I guess they were just experimenting. You know, trying to find their own way in life. I am willing to bet if they where of Arabic or “ethnic” disposition then we would have invaded their home country to look for their weapons of mass destruction. Then we could reform/condemn them to the overpowering righteousness that is our take on a capitalist democracy. You know the brand, just look how well it works in Iraq or Afghanistan (see also 1950-70’s Southeast Asia and 1945-50’s European lower countries). They just don’t ask us for it because their primitive minds couldn’t think of it.  – Anyway, that is another topic for another time-.

     I find it disheartening that these events take a back seat to way less important news fodder. It is sad also that because of our collective preoccupation with bullshit we cannot even muster the strength to hold the government accountable for the ease of which the spies where just given back to their country. Why? What deals were cut for this indignation? I suppose we’ll never know. There used to be a time that I would recall some military advice on these heady political misgivings and say, “just stay in your pay grade and trust that things happen for the good of the commonwealth”. But watching the last presidential administration eroded all of my confidence in what “commonwealth” has come to mean. I don’ t think I have enough strength to maintain that methodology any longer and maybe have lost some hope as to what we can really expect to have  for a future. I truly belive it is not going to look like what any politicians verbally paint it out to be. So,  go on! Watch reality wives and the next fantasy movie on your mypad while cutting pounds to look sexier on your $9000.00 swaretsky crystal encrusted treadmill. Meanwhile, the real word is happening right outside of our borders. But be careful, those borders are getting smaller and that could definitely ruin your smart-phone signal. Wouldn’t that be just unbearable?

Focus on genre: Westerns (3:10 to Yuma)

  The age old saying, “If it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it” Is alive and well today especially with the executives in the film studios that produce these paeans to iconic genres. The strict formula that they  follow to produce these films can be easily traced back to older precedents that; if are not captured on celluloid then can surely be found within the pages of timeless stories, plays and dramas that may well have been devised since before the time of Christ. The structure which they follow has been so firmly established and often repeated to perfection that one must only piece together interesting or juxtaposing plot lines with interesting circumstances for the main and minor conflicts within the story and finally sprinkle some common parallels throughout the movie to give viewers something they can hold onto that’s it familiar to them. Then, with these “new” elements, simply place them into the archetype for whatever genre that is desired. A solid film that we will be dissecting within the confines of this paper is the 2007 remake of the 1957 western, 3:10 to Yuma. Within the following paragraphs we will dissect the inner workings of this movie and find what parts are common to the genre that it pays a very valiant homage to.

               As with most westerns the plot line involves a quiet man that is down on his luck who is occupied only with the daily business of living. In our case the protagonist is Dan Evans, a farmer and crippled civil war veteran who is raising his family on a tract of land that has been prepared to be sold to the local railroad company without his consent or objection. In a horrible season of rampant drought he needs to grow an ample yield to free himself from his mounting debt and save his homestead. Dan Evans is also trying to maintain the structure of his family during this struggle. He is battling for position with his wife about being a proper man and breadwinner while trying to maintain his fatherly status amongst his children who are testing their limits to establish themselves as equals in their manhood. Dan had become crippled as a result of his service to the union army during the civil war and the circumstances under which he was injured are not revealed but they did result in him moving very far from his home. This is an interesting sub plot because it is not made clear to the viewer why his family has so much underlying content for his authority or being. The story clearly illustrates that Dan Evans is at the end of his moral fiber and is desperate to redeem himself and rescue his family from the bleak future that so closely awaits them. This plot line (and even sub plots) is highly typical of most western cinemas. These situations do a good job concrete the dire circumstances that may have been commonplace to a contemporary of this time.

               All these events set up the arrival of the hero’s salvation within the guise of the anti hero, who in this case is an outlaw murderer, Ben Wade. Ben wade is typical of this genres antagonist. He is very similar in many ways to the hero and they share many common thoughts and experiences but the antagonist just cannot accept any other way of life. The path to catharsis for our hero is clear and straightforward. In order to get redemption in the eyes of his family; the hero must face old fears, daunting odds, tough decisions and even the prospect of constant death to meet the challenge and win the life which he deserves. All of which can only be given by the hero’s counterpoint. The stories subplots are progressive and usually weave in and out of the destinies of the main characters. They (hero and antihero) both must deal with internal and external strife, moral struggles, deception from their respective camps and a growing fondness for the others character making their previous ways of life even more strained in the knowledge they conjure together. All of the minor characters have their storylines and always end up in the same manner. The good side often loses a very likeable and trustworthy character adding tension to the hero’s camp; while the bad side will battle amongst itself to satisfy its own lust for power which will usually bring about it own demise in the end. And while these new and exotic circumstances are unfolding, we the viewers are given some very familiar and relatable scenes to use to establish credibility and identity with the characters.

          Another important aspect of the genre is the eternal givings that have become the calling card of that type of film. These common thread experiences aim to give the viewer a familiar event to hold onto to help give the film a sense of credibility and fullness. In Westerns the stereotypical thoughts that arise are about but not limited to; steamy locomotives, ambushes, saloon scenes, gambling scenes, prostitutes, quick draw showdowns, expert horsemanship, and “trail life”. All of these segments are contained between the opening and closing credits of this movie but also within other movies. This creates a familiarity with the world the director is presenting to the viewer.

               So in summation, it is clear that these events have previously been done many times over with so many variables and approaches in preceding films. So why then do viewers still watch and rave about a film that we as moviegoers are already too keen to what will happen? The answer is not that we like to watch the same events unfold over and over again or that the idea of the West is an appealing escape from a very different world that we all occupy today. But the life of this genre deals with the reality of the human story. The overcoming of hardship for virtuous reasons is the driving force to genre. The iron will of the frontier can be tamed but only by a certain type of individual is always a tied in theme and promotes a sense of strength and hope that justice and righteousness are found in the most unlikely of situations and every man can make the future they wanted

In the courtyard of the Masjid-I Jami: a study in beauty and precision

   Mosques are a sacred pillar in Islamic life and are living centers for civic and religious ceremony. They serve as schools for children and adults alike; they also host community, social and political functions. They can be thought of as a place of worship, wisdom, and fellowship. The Masjid-I Jami or congregation mosque in Isfahan Iran is one such mosque worthy of note. It was created in the 10th century and has steadily evolved from its start to fit and suit the needs of its population. This is not to say that the work completed on this edifice has merely been structural. There have been many great additions to the visual appeal of the mosque during its time to further deify and celebrate Allah and his role in the Muslim way of life. This mosque is a visual celebration of Islamic culture and this author will attempt to define some key areas that make this important fixture a work of living art.  

Seljuk brickwork patterns on the Masjid-i Jami in Isfahan, Iran. Photo courtesy of http://www.islamicity.org


  The FORM of the example is expansive. This mosque is a largely executed attempt to accommodate the male population of its community. It is a simple building which is then elaborately decorated by its caretakers or expanded to fulfill the needs of the community. The LINES are straight and precise for the general framework of the building. They are perpendicular and parallel in such deliberate quantities that a feeling of structure, safety, and ultimately righteousness can be found in its visage. This strict and functional canvas of structure compliments the COMPOSITION that the artisans have created in the way they have used a multitude of muslim muqarnas (a type of stacked niche) set along great vaulted arches. These features have within them even more niches that all of which tell a story or relay a quoted scripture from the Qur’an.  

Facade covered with Kufic inscriptions and intricate tilework. Photo by Sojta Serjber, panoramio


  On this particular “canvas”, the MATERIALS and TECHNIQUE used to decorate and define this mosque are simply staggering. The façade is completed in a cobalt blue mosaic background with high levels of detail executed in contrast to the base color. There are borders of the mosaic tile around the arches and niches that serve to define the structure as well as design “themes” that differ based on where they are located (i.e. flat walls have a “basic” carryover design which then changes when the pattern reaches a minaret or dome, it then becomes more geometric in its appearance). The amount of visual data presented is truly overwhelming to the human eye. The painstaking amount of tedium that was needed to set these individually carved and cut pieces of tile and then place them in such a precise order so that they could resemble a required shape or even the Kufic Language is a masterstroke to the artists that created this monument.  

   The use of COLOR choice on this work is both striking and befitting of its purpose. The locale around this building (geographically speaking) is muted and generally restricted to earth tones. In defiance, this building stands in high relief to its environment being mainly composed of a deep blue mosaic covering. The Contrast in colors is a beacon to all who are within sight of it and serves as a constant reminder to its faithful following.  

   The area this community place occupies for its intended purpose is forever changing throughout its lifespan. The entire structure is devoted to ease the fundamentals of its religion and to allow for all way of procession to occur within it. Theses borders can then be expanded according to the needs of its following. This is an example of how SPACE was used when conceiving this artwork.  

  This has been a small summary of the basic components needed to objectively rate an artwork for what it and what it was meant to be. My rantings on this lovely mosque are by no means the only interpretations that can be concluded and are far from the results that an in-depth and scholarly study of the structure would derive. This writing was presented from a more generalist and amateur enthusiasts viewpoint.