NYPD Spied Outside of Jurisdiction, and Even Outside US

Given all the (justified) hubbub about the federal prosecutor firings, you may have missed it. But it’s just as significant a story, if not moreso.

Following is the complete text of the NY Times article, based on NYPD documents and multiple sources, that broke the story this week. More to come. This is a very big deal, and you should be very concerned.

Unanswered at this writing are what precise legal mechanisms (or manipulations) were employed to allegedly sanction local cops to spy on Constitutionally-protected — and frequently non-violent — dissenters thousands of miles outside of their legal jurisdiction, not to mention in multiple foreign countries.

It must be mentioned here — especially since it is not being mentioned in most coverage — that NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence, David Cohen, is former head of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, which means he personally supervised all covert action operations for the agency. It also bears mentioning that even though Cohen has served in this capacity for five years, his official NYPD bio is blank.

Those with any awareness of contemporary history might well be reminded of G. Gordon Liddy’s infamous Watergate-era plan to abduct key US political activists opposed to Nixon’s Vietnam War during the lead-up to the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami.

“City Police Spied Broadly Before G.O.P. Convention”
by Jim Dwyer
New York Times, March 25, 2007

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews. [Emphases added.]

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show. [Emphasis added.]

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports. [Emphasis added.]

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

“Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. “Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event.”

Police records indicate that in addition to sharing information with other police departments, New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York — including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. — and in Europe. [Emphases added.]
The operation was mounted in 2003 after the Police Department, invoking the fresh horrors of the World Trade Center attack and the prospect of future terrorism, won greater authority from a federal judge to investigate political organizations for criminal activity.

To date, as the boundaries of the department’s expanded powers continue to be debated, police officials have provided only glimpses of its intelligence-gathering.

Now, the broad outlines of the pre-convention operations are emerging from records in federal lawsuits that were brought over mass arrests made during the convention, and in greater detail from still-secret reports reviewed by The New York Times. [Emphasis added.] These include a sample of raw intelligence documents and of summary digests of observations from both the field and the department’s cyberintelligence unit.

Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department, confirmed that the operation had been wide-ranging, and said it had been an essential part of the preparations for the huge crowds that came to the city during the convention.

“Detectives collected information both in-state and out-of-state to learn in advance what was coming our way,” Mr. Browne said. When the detectives went out of town, he said, the department usually alerted the local authorities by telephone or in person.

Under a United States Supreme Court ruling, undercover surveillance of political groups is generally legal, but the police in New York — like those in many other big cities — have operated under special limits as a result of class-action lawsuits filed over police monitoring of civil rights and antiwar groups during the 1960s. The limits in New York are known as the Handschu guidelines, after the lead plaintiff, Barbara Handschu.

“All our activities were legal and were subject in advance to Handschu review,” Mr. Browne said.

Before monitoring political activity, the police must have “some indication of unlawful activity on the part of the individual or organization to be investigated,” United States District Court Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. said in a ruling last month.

Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents seven of the 1,806 people arrested during the convention, said the Police Department stepped beyond the law in its covert surveillance program.

“The police have no authority to spy on lawful political activity, and this wide-ranging N.Y.P.D. program was wrong and illegal,” Mr. Dunn said. “In the coming weeks, the city will be required to disclose to us many more details about its preconvention surveillance of groups and activists, and many will be shocked by the breadth of the Police Department’s political surveillance operation.”

The Police Department said those complaints were overblown.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the convention lawsuits are scheduled to begin depositions of David Cohen, the deputy police commissioner for intelligence. Mr. Cohen, a former senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency, was “central to the N.Y.P.D.’s efforts to collect intelligence information prior to the R.N.C.,” Gerald C. Smith, an assistant corporation counsel with the city Law Department, said in a federal court filing.

Balancing Safety and Surveillance

For nearly four decades, the city, civil liberties lawyers and the Police Department have fought in federal court over how to balance public safety, free speech and the penetrating but potentially disruptive force of police surveillance.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Raymond W. Kelly, who became police commissioner in January 2002, “took the position that the N.Y.P.D. could no longer rely on the federal government alone, and that the department had to build an intelligence capacity worthy of the name,” Mr. Browne said.

Mr. Cohen contended that surveillance of domestic political activities was essential to fighting terrorism. “Given the range of activities that may be engaged in by the members of a sleeper cell in the long period of preparation for an act of terror, the entire resources of the N.Y.P.D. must be available to conduct investigations into political activity and intelligence-related issues,” Mr. Cohen wrote in an affidavit dated Sept. 12, 2002.

In February 2003, the Police Department, with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s support, was given broad new authority by Judge Haight to conduct such monitoring. However, a senior police official must still determine that there is some indication of illegal activity before an inquiry is begun.

An investigation by the Intelligence Division led to the arrest — coincidentally, three days before the convention — of a man who spoke about bombing the Herald Square subway station. In another initiative, detectives were stationed in Europe and the Middle East to quickly funnel information back to New York.

When the city was designated in February 2003 as the site of the 2004 Republican National Convention, the department had security worries — in particular about the possibility of a truck bomb attack near Madison Square Garden, where events would be held — and logistical concerns about managing huge crowds, Mr. Browne said.

“We also prepared to contend with a relatively small group of self-described anarchists who vowed to prevent delegates from participating in the convention or otherwise disrupt the convention by various means, including vandalism,” Mr. Browne said. “Our goal was to safeguard delegates, demonstrators and the general public alike.”

In its preparations, the department applied the intelligence resources that had just been strengthened for fighting terrorism to an entirely different task: collecting information on people participating in political protests.

In the records reviewed by The Times, some of the police intelligence concerned people and groups bent on causing trouble, but the bulk of the reports covered the plans and views of people with no obvious intention of breaking the law.

By searching the Internet, investigators identified groups that were making plans for demonstrations. Files were created on their political causes, the criminal records, if any, of the people involved and any plans for civil disobedience or disruptive tactics.

From the field, undercover officers filed daily accounts of their observations on forms known as DD5s that called for descriptions of the gatherings, the leaders and participants, and the groups’ plans.

Inside the police Intelligence Division, daily reports from both the field and the Web were summarized in bullet format. These digests — marked “Secret” — were circulated weekly under the heading “Key Findings.”

Perceived Threats

On Jan. 6, 2004, the intelligence digest noted that an antigentrification group in Montreal claimed responsibility for hoax bombs that had been planted at construction sites of luxury condominiums, stating that the purpose was to draw attention to the homeless. The group was linked to a band of anarchist-communists whose leader had visited New York, according to the report.

Other digests noted a planned campaign of “electronic civil disobedience” to jam fax machines and hack into Web sites. Participants at a conference were said to have discussed getting inside delegates’ hotels by making hair salon appointments or dinner reservations. At the same conference, people were reported to have discussed disabling charter buses and trying to confuse delegates by switching subway directional signs, or by sealing off stations with crime-scene tape.

A Syracuse peace group intended to block intersections, a report stated. Other reports mentioned past demonstrations where various groups used nails and ball bearings as weapons and threw balloons filled with urine or other foul liquids.

The police also kept track of Richard Picariello, a man who had been convicted in 1978 of politically motivated bombings in Massachusetts, Mr. Browne said.

At the other end of the threat spectrum was Joshua Kinberg, a graduate student at Parsons School of Design and the subject of four pages of intelligence reports, including two pictures. For his master’s thesis project, Mr. Kinberg devised a “wireless bicycle” equipped with cellphone, laptop and spray tubes that could squirt messages received over the Internet onto the sidewalk or street.

The messages were printed in water-soluble chalk, a tactic meant to avoid a criminal mischief charge for using paint, an intelligence report noted. Mr. Kinberg’s bicycle was “capable of transferring activist-based messages on streets and sidewalks,” according to a report on July 22, 2004.

“This bicycle, having been built for the sole purpose of protesting during the R.N.C., is capable of spraying anti-R.N.C.-type messages on surrounding streets and sidewalks, also supplying the rider with a quick vehicle of escape,” the report said. Mr. Kinberg, then 25, was arrested during a television interview with Ron Reagan for MSNBC’s “Hardball” program during the convention. He was released a day later, but his equipment was held for more than a year.

Mr. Kinberg said Friday that after his arrest, detectives with the terrorism task force asked if he knew of any plans for violence. “I’m an artist,” he said. “I know other artists, who make T-shirts and signs.”

He added: “There’s no reason I should have been placed on any kind of surveillance status. It affected me, my ability to exercise free speech, and the ability of thousands of people who were sending in messages for the bike, to exercise their free speech.”

New Faces in Their Midst

A vast majority of several hundred reports reviewed by The Times, including field reports and the digests, described groups that gave no obvious sign of wrongdoing. The intelligence noted that one group, the “Man- and Woman-in-Black Bloc,” planned to protest outside a party at Sotheby’s for Tennessee’s Republican delegates with Johnny Cash’s career as its theme.

The satirical performance troupe Billionaires for Bush, which specializes in lampooning the Bush administration by dressing in tuxedos and flapper gowns, was described in an intelligence digest on Jan. 23, 2004.

“Billionaires for Bush is an activist group forged as a mockery of the current president and political policies,” the report said. “Preliminary intelligence indicates that this group is raising funds for expansion and support of anti-R.N.C. activist organizations.”

Marco Ceglie, who performs as Monet Oliver dePlace in Billionaires for Bush, said he had suspected that the group was under surveillance by federal agents — not necessarily police officers — during weekly meetings in a downtown loft and at events around the country in the summer of 2004.

“It was a running joke that some of the new faces were 25- to 32-year-old males asking, ‘First name, last name?’ ” Mr. Ceglie said. “Some people didn’t care; it bothered me and a couple of other leaders, but we didn’t want to make a big stink because we didn’t want to look paranoid. We applied to the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act to see if there’s a file, but the answer came back that ‘we cannot confirm or deny.’ ”

The Billionaires try to avoid provoking arrests, Mr. Ceglie said.

Others — who openly planned civil disobedience, with the expectation of being arrested — said they assumed they were under surveillance, but had nothing to hide. “Some of the groups were very concerned about infiltration,” said Ed Hedemann of the War Resisters League, a pacifist organization founded in 1923. “We weren’t. We had open meetings.”

The war resisters publicly announced plans for a “die-in” at Madison Square Garden. They were arrested two minutes after they began a silent march from the World Trade Center site. The charges were dismissed.

The sponsors of an event planned for Jan. 15, 2004, in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday were listed in one of the reports, which noted that it was a protest against “the R.N.C., the war in Iraq and the Bush administration.” It mentioned that three members of the City Council at the time, Charles Barron, Bill Perkins and Larry B. Seabrook, “have endorsed this event.”

Others supporting it, the report said, were the New York City AIDS Housing Network, the Arab Muslim American Foundation, Activists for the Liberation of Palestine, Queers for Peace and Justice and the 1199 Bread and Roses Cultural Project.

Many of the 1,806 people arrested during the convention were held for up to two days on minor offenses normally handled with a summons; the city Law Department said the preconvention intelligence justified detaining them all for fingerprinting.

Mr. Browne said that 18 months of preparation by the police had allowed hundreds of thousands of people to demonstrate while also ensuring that the Republican delegates were able to hold their convention with relatively few disruptions.

“We attributed the successful policing of the convention to a host of N.Y.P.D. activities leading up to the R.N.C., including 18 months of intensive planning,” he said. “It was a great success, and despite provocations, such as demonstrators throwing faux feces in the faces of police officers, the N.Y.P.D. showed professionalism and restraint.”

Naptown Music, Sing This Song…

Calling all Hoosiers… For a good time Indy-style (yeah, kind of an oxymoron), stop by amongst the cornrows…Naptown!, posted at the Curved Air blog.

It includes various articles and some music downloads of ’70s-ish Indy music-ness: mostly jazz (e.g. The Naptown Afro-Jazz Quintet), funk and soul. But it even offers that rarest of beasts: some electronic somethings by a talented IU student Bloomingtonian named Steve Birchall. Bizarrely enough, that release is currently available on CD from Mimaroglu Music Sales. This is bizarre because I only just now Googled up this fact, yet the post I wrote mere moments ago happened to be about the Turkish electronic composer, Ilhan Mimaroglu. (Back in my Indy days, me and my friends called this a “toing,” sorta like synchronicity on acid and involving quantum physics and hootenannies. Long story.)

One fine discovery via that post is the Indiana 45s site — “a resource dedicated to the documentation and preservation of music and the history of Hoosier artists.” In other words, a really pretty thorough discography. Being good Hoosiers, it also includes some LPs, site name be damned.

Update: The aforementioned Steve Birchall electronic music album, Reality Gates (1973) recorded at the venerable Gilfoy Sound, proves to be really pretty good and well recommendable. Engaging and somewhat adventurous, and not as austere and stiff as many electronic works of that academic era. Highly recommended.

Alas, so far I can find precious little online about Mr. Birchall — or at least little I can be sure is actually about the electronic composer. It appears he had a stint as a writer editor for Digital Audio magazine back in the ’80s, which published his widely-linked interview with Frank Zappa in 1984. I’d love to know more about this (sorry) forgotten figure in Indiana experimental music — so if you know anything at all, please do post a comment.

Missing Pieces by Ilhan Mimaroglu

Composer Ilhan Mimaro�luI’ve been listening to a fair amount of early electronic music lately.

Via the copiously entertaining and worthwhile EARLabs site, I came upon Missing Pieces, a downloadable collection of eight early electronic and musique concrète works by Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroğlu, culled from three out-of-print LPs released by the Finnadar and Turnabout labels.

Available tracks:

Bowery Bum (1964)
Intermezzo (1964)
Agony (1965)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape I (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape VI (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape IX (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape XI (1966-67)
Prelude for Magnetic Tape XII (1966-67)

(Fwiw, there’s apparently also a BitTorrent floating about, courtesy of the Avant Garde Project, that includes these and a few other pieces, plus a text transcription of liner notes.)

For those unfamiliar with him, following are some biographic notes written by Mimaroglu, though I’m not able to determine their original source at this time.

Time has told in first person singular that I was born March 11, 1926, in Istanbul, turkey; son of the eminent architect, Kemalletin, whom I have never known as he died when I was barely a year old. He had wanted me to grow up with music. There was a phonograph in our house and a number of classical records. Those were my only toys.

I was also hearing music that the environment was offering me, music that I regarded rather anodine and began to say to myself that there ought to be more to music than all that. Indeed there was. First jazz revealed itself to me, then contemporary art music. My mother wanted me to go to the conservatory. I declined. They would teach me the wrong things there I didn’t know enough about music yet to tell what’s wrong and what’s not. Instead, law school. I couldn’t have cared less about law anyway. But I learned one important thing there, that I should obey only laws I could have made myself. Then came the time for music education as I knew enough about music to avoid the pitfalls. One learns best what ones already knows.

The first products of electronic music and/or musique concrete reached me in the early fifties. By that time I had established a reputation in Turkey as a writer and broadcaster on music. The Rockefeller Foundation heard about me and had me visit New York [in 1955] for a program of studies at Columbia University (primarily in musicology under Paul Henry Lang and composition under Douglas Moore).

A few years later I returned to New York to establish residence and further my studies at Columbia with a program centered around electronic music as in the course of my first visit I had come into closer contact with the work in electronic music (tape music) conducted at Columbia University by Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky.

For many years I worked in the studios of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Center [more @ Wikipedia]. My primary mentor was Ussachevsky. I also had the occasion to work with Edgard Varése and Stefan Wolpe, among others. In the early 1970s I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in music compositions.

In addition to my electronic and instrumental/vocal compositions, I wrote a number of books (on history of music, jazz, electronic music, plus a set of diaries, all published in Turkey).

Even if I hadn’t done anything else, having written (and published) my “Project Utopia” pamphlet, I would have regarded my existence justified.

Postscript:  To correct the (sadly) paltry Wikipedia entry on Ilhan Mimaroglu, he contributed music to the soundtrack of Fellini’s Satyricon, but was not a producer of the film (nor, I believe, producer of the soundtrack overall).

Larry ‘Bud’ Melman (Calvert DeForest) Dies at 85

Calvert DeForest, alias Larry 'Bud' Melman

Calvert DeForest, Jr., better known as Larry “Bud” Melman during his 20 year stint from 1982-2002 on David Letterman’s late night shows, died on March 19, 2007 after a long illness. He leaves no immediate survivors.

Thanks for all the laughs, Calvert. You were one of a kind. I remember one night when Dave showed a headshot of you when you were young, and you were a handsome devil indeed — I wish I could find it somewhere now so I could post it in your honor. Cheers.

Numerous YouTube clips (including his appearance on the very first episode of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC in 1982) — via YesButNoButYes.

Calvert DeForest bio at NNBD.com

NY Times obit

Calvert DeForest film & TV credits via IMDB

Calvert DeForest: The second most powerful man in American broadcasting!

Video-to-Super 8 Conversion for Obsessive Compulsives

In the summer of 2006, Jesse England of Oregon not only concocted but actually executed an ingenious if slightly insane method for transferring video to Super 8 using Premiere, an inkjet printer, and a boxcutter.

I shit thee not.

As explained on the official web page for the England Printed Film Process, one first creates a Photoshop template using the correct dimensions for the film. In Premiere, the video is converted to the “filmstrip” format, and this is then copied-and-pasted into the Photoshop template and properly aligned. This is arranged so as to fit the most Super 8-sized strips into a letter-sized space, using as many pages as you require.

This is then printed to transparency using an ordinary inkjet printer (or a laser printer if’n you have one).

You then cut out every single sprocket hole using a boxcutter, then cut each Super 8-sized strip free and splice the ends together in sequence.

Hours of fun!

England also tried an optical sound experiment for 16mm gauge “film”. In that case, “a screenshot of an audio waveform was reduced in size and placed in the soundtrack area” of the 16mm version of the Photoshop tempate.

The results are very interesting, and can be viewed as streaming video clips on England’s web page. Personally, I find I prefer the more blotchy look of the inkjet output over the laser printed, though I’m sure it’s much more short-lived. It vaguely reminds me of footage I saw once (and only once, alas) that was created by some crazy Germans who buried film in the ground, unprotected, for long periods of time until it was rotting and barely holding together, and then optically printed it (often burning up just as it was being photographed). It was incredibly beautiful and I sure do wish I still had the handout from that show. But anyway…I digress…
It’s impossible to tell how successful the optical sound experiment is since there’s no “true” source (say an MP3 or something) to compare it against, but in the provided streaming clip it’s about as noisy as one might expect.

Hats off to Jesse England, who graduated with an undoubtedly well-earned BS in Multimedia Design from the University of Oregon. More streaming video by Jesse can be found at Vimeo.com.

And hats off, too, to the Portland-area film scene, which is obviously fostering some very interesting ideas.

(Thanks to Wild Freshness for the serendipitous pointer.)

French Government Releases Its OVNI (UFO) Files to the Web

The official French governmental group in charge of investigating UFOs (or OVNI — Objet Volant Non Identifié — as they’re commonly known in France) has publicly released what it claims are all of its files to the Web, including graphics, audio, and video recordings. (But I guess that would not include the evidence that UFO researcher, computer scientist, and noted author Jacques Vallée witnessed being destroyed in 1961.)

The Web site — at http://www.cnes-geipan.fr/geipan/ — has been completely overwhelmed by visitors (terrestrial, albeit virtual), and at this writing is frequently not accessible at all due to the load.

The collection numbers some 100,000 documents, spanning more than 50 years and incorporating 1,650 cases and approximately 6,000 witness reports, plus police and expert reports, witness sketches, maps, photos and video and audio recordings. According to the group’s director, Jacques Patenet, 25-28 percent (depending on which news story you read) are classified as “Class D aerospace phenomena,” defined as “inexplicable despite precise testimonies and the (good) quality of material information gathered.” This is roughly equivalent to the percentage of unexplainable cases in the old Project Blue Book As reported by the Associated Press, “Only 9 percent of France’s strange phenomena have been fully explained, the agency said. Experts found likely reasons for another 33 percent, and 30 percent could not be identified for lack of information.”

The oldest report in the French archives reportedly dates to 1937, 17 years before the formal French investigations began.

Regrettably, the site’s basic navigation requires JavaScript and Ajax support in order to function, which means no outside search engine indexing (sorry Google) and, actually, that it’s probably in violation of the EU’s Web accessibility standards.

The French space agency CNES was first charged with investigating UFOs in 1954, but apparently it did not form a specific group for that purpose in 1977. It is currently known as GEIPAN (Groupe d’Etudes et d’Information des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non identifiés, or the Group for Study and Information on Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena), it has undergone several name changes over the years. At its formation in 1977, it was called GEPAN (Groupement d’Etude des Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés). In 1988 it was replaced by SEPRA (Service d’Expertise des Phénomènes de Rentrées Atmosphériques), privatized (I think) in 1999 and re-christened Service d’Expertise des Phénomènes Rares Aérospatiaux (allowing it to keep its old acronym). The current GEIPAN organization was created in 2005.

You can read some GEPAN/SEPRA/GEIPAN-related documents and news articles over at UFOevidence.org. There’s also a French-language page at the Les Découvertes Impossibles site (Google translate-o-tron link) that includes an organizational timeline and numerous papers and publications issued by GEPAN from 1979-1983, available in both HTML and PDF formats.

Bon appetit, mes étrangers. As an apéritif, here’s a Google auto-translated version of the CNES press release announcing the formation of GEIPAN in 2005:

PARIS, 28.9. 2005
CP 075 – 2005

A STEERING COMMITTEE FOR THE FOLLOW-UP OF THE ACTIVITIES
DEPENDENT ON THE AEROSPACE PHENOMENA NOT IDENTIFY

To supervise and control the activity of follow-up of the Not identified Aerospace Phenomena (SIDE) and a policy of information in this field, it was decided to constitute a Steering committee of which the first meeting was held on September 22, 2005 with the CNES.

The activity of the CNES concerning the Not identified Aerospace Phenomena comprises three shutters:

  • collection, seizure and the filing of the reports/ratios in order to maintain and to manage a data base (activity CNES),
  • analysis of this information by calling upon correspondents in the fields and disciplines concerned,
  • the communication with public interested, publication of periodic reports/ratios and the management of the access to the files.

The Steering committee, chaired by Mr. Yves Sillard, old Directing General of the CNES, former Delegate General for the Armament, is made up:

  • representatives of the CNES: the Deputy manager of the Center of Toulouse, the Director of the External Communication, Education and the Public affairs, in charge one of mission for the ethical questions,
  • representatives of the organizations with which the CNES collaborates in this field: National gendarmerie, National police force, Air Force, Civil Safety, Civil aviation, Weather-France,
  • researchers invited by the President of the CNES in agreement with the President of the Steering committee.

At its first meeting, the Committee recommended the installation or the reactualization of draft-agreements between the CNES and the Organizations partners. It underlined the need for a policy transparent and recommended the creation of an Internet site with setting on line of information available, in the respect of the legislation in force.

The Steering committee will meet as a need and at least twice a year on convocation for its President. Person in charge CNES in load for the SIDE activity will submit an annual review article to the Steering committee as well as a progress report at semi-year. The CNES will address the annual review article to its supervisions accompanied by the presentations and recommendations by the steering committee.

The Fritz Lang Papers…in Wyoming? Yup. And Quicktimes, Too, Pardner.

Photography of Fritz LangWow. Of all places on Earth, who would have guessed that the private papers of German film director Fritz Lang would have wound up at the University of Wyoming? Well, they did — and I sure would love to know the back-story on that one.

Fritz Lang was one of the greatest film directors ever, full stop. Just some of his works include Metropolis (1927), Spione (Spies, 1926 — surprisingly modern to this day), the epic Wiemar-era Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler, 1922 — with an excellent US edition recently issued by Kino) and the even more masterful early-Nazi-era sequel Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933), the landmark 2-part epic Die Nibelungen (Siegfried [1924] and Die Krimhelds Rache [Kriemheld's Revenge, 1924]), and the absolutely amazing/horrifying M (1931) which was not only one of the very first German sound films ever made, but also the breathtaking film debut of one Peter Lorre. And that’s not even counting his later (and, alas, much lesser) Hollywood films after fleeing Hitler, such as The Big Heat (1953) and Rancho Notorious (1952).

If you’re a true scholar and make it out Laramie way, you can avail yourself of Lang’s papers (1909 – 1973). For the rest of us, do stop by the online collection of 20 digitized Fritz Lang silent home movies “shot on 16mm film from 1938-1953 as he toured around the American Southwest, capturing images of Tombstone Arizona, Death Valley California, a Hopi Native American Village and what is now the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona and the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.”

All are available for download as Quicktime videos.

Jodorowsky DVD Box Set Details — El Topo, Holy Mountain, Fando y Lis & more

Cover art for the DVD box set, 'The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky' (Anchor Bay, 2007)May 1, 2007 is the official street date for the long-awaited Alejandro Jodorowsky DVD box set, The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky. (See related posts from this here blog.) The MSRP is $49.98 (do retailers still think we think that doesn’t mean $50??), but if you poke around you can find web sites offering presales for less.

Beware, tho — one asshole with an Amazon shop is actually trying to sell this for $165 — a more than 440% markup over the MSRP. The jerk even claims it’s “in stock” and that you can “buy with confidence.” Suffice to say, never buy anything from the ImportCDs_Com Amazon shop! No doubt other scamming shitbags are out there trying to prey on unknowning Jodorowsky fans, so caveat emptor my friends.

It should also be noted that the title of the box set is slightly misleading — it does not include all of the films made by Jodorowsky, tho his best ones are indeed represented.

Ahem. So getting back to the happier news, this is the first-ever US home video release (let alone on DVD) of Jodorowsky’s masterworks, El Topo and The Holy Mountain — previously available (legally) only on Italian Region 2 import DVDs and older Japanese import VHS and Laserdisk (and in the latter instances only with blurred nasty bits) — plus his first feature, Fando y Lis, soundtrack CDs, and a boat-load of delicious extras (see below). You can buy singleton DVDs of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, but at $19 a pop MSRP you really really should spring the extra 10 lousy bucks for the box — or even less for the aforementioned discounted presales. Seriously, yo.

All three of the features have been newly-remastered to HD specifications from the original negatives, personally supervised by Jodorowsky himself. This includes Fando y Lis, which was released on Region 1 DVD by Fantoma (in a very fine edition, I might add) in 2003.

Inexplicably — and rather inexcusably — Anchor Bay (the label handling the releases) has zero, and I mean zero, info on their site. But following below is the full text of the press release with full details of the extras (including deleted scenes from Holy Mountain!), et cetera, courtesy of DVDsnapshot.com. (A slightly truncated version, minus the company self-promo babble, was posted way back in January by Fangoria.com — so full props to them, they who well corrupted my young mind back in the pre-Web ’80s.)

FROM ABKCO FILMS: THREE CLASSICS OF CINEMATIC SURREALISM FROM “MIDNIGHT MOVIE” PIONEER ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY — EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN AND FANDO Y LIS DISTRIBUTED BY ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT!

PREMIERING ON DVD MAY 1st [2007] WITH EXCLUSIVE NEVER-BEFORE SEEN EXTRAS!

New York, NY – On May 1, 2007 ABKCO Films will release Alejandro Jodorowsky’s trio of mind-bending classics, El Topo, The Holy Mountain and Fando Y Lis, on DVD for the first time ever [sic]. These astonishing films, which have been fully restored and remastered, will be available as a special limited edition collector’s box set featuring exclusive rare bonus materials. The box set will be available for an SRP of $49.98, with El Topo and The Holy Mountain also available separately at $24.98 each. [Note: Various online retailers are offering these individual titles for less than $20 each.]

Originally released in 1970, El Topo quickly caught the imagination of movie audiences, becoming a landmark in independent film-making. The early screenings at New York’s Elgin Theater sparked the Midnight Movie phenomena, catalyzed by an endorsement from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Classic Americana and avant-garde European sensibilities collide with Zen Buddhism and the Bible as master gunfighter and mystic El Topo (played by writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky) tries to defeat four sharp-shooting rivals on a bizarre path to allegorical self-awareness and resurrection. As it seeks an alternative to the Hollywood mainstream, El Topo is also the most controversial quasi-Western head trip ever made!

Jodorowsky’s high budget follow up effort, The Holy Mountain, takes his psychedelic allegorical mastery to another level. Grotesque, mystical and sacrilegious, it is an excursion into the meaning of earthly wealth and immortality.

Rounding out this unique set is Jodorowsky’s first full-length feature film, Fando Y Lis. Based on Jodorowsky’s memories of a play by surrealist Fernando Arrabal, it caused an uproar in the avant-garde community when it premiered in 1967 in Acapulco.

Among the extras included in this collector’s box is previously unseen footage, a feature on the restoration process, an exclusive interview with Jodorowsky, optional director commentary tracks, subtitles, two special CDs of the films’ soundtracks and a separate DVD of the first film ever made by Jodorowsky, La Cravate.

EL TOPO:
Digitally restored to HD from original negative
Original Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
5.1 Dolby & 2.0 Stereo
Original Feature Language: Spanish
Optional Subtitles: EN, SP, FR & BR PORT
Optional commentary track by Director (Language: Spanish with optional EN, SP, FR & BR PORT subtitles)
Optional English overdub track

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN:
2K scanned digitally restored to 35mm & HD
Original Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced for 16×9
5.1 Dolby & 2.0 Stereo
Original Feature Language: English
Optional Subtitles: EN, SP, FR & BR PORT
Optional commentary track by Director (Language: Spanish with optional EN, SP, FR & BR PORT subtitles)

FANDO Y LIS
Digitally restored from original negative
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Letterboxed
Original Language: Spanish
Optional Subtitles: EN, SP, FR & BR PORT
Optional commentary track by Director (Language: Spanish with optional EN, SP, FR & BR PORT subtitles)

EXTRAS -

EL TOPO:
-Original theatrical trailer- English V.O.
-2006 on camera interview with Jodorowsky (Language English/English subtitles)
-Photo Gallery/Original script excerpts
-Exclusive interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky

THE HOLY MOUNTAIN:
- Deleted scenes with director commentary (Language: Spanish with optional EN, SP, FR & BR PORT subtitles)
- Original theatrical trailer -English V.O
- The Tarot short with director commentary (Language: Spanish with optional EN, SP, FR & BR PORT subtitles)
- Restoration process short (Original Language English)
- Photo Gallery / Original Script excerpts
- Restoration Credits

BOX SET EXTRAS:
FANDO Y LIS
-La Constellation Jodorowsky documentary
-Original language French and English Stereo

TWO AUDIO CDs
- El Topo soundtrack
- The Holy Mountain soundtrack

LA CRAVATE
- Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first film
- Never released before

Street Date: May 1, 2007
Runtime: EL TOPO: 125 minutes
THE HOLY MOUNTAIN: 114 minutes
FANDO Y LIS: 93 minutes
Price: Box set $49.98, EL TOPO, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN $24.98 each when purchased separately
Language: Varied, see above
Subtitles: Varied, see above
Available at: Retailers Nationwide

ABKCO Films has been involved with many successful movies including La Grande Bouffe (winner of the International Critics prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival), The Greek Tycoon starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset, The Concert for Bangladesh featuring Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr. In 2003 ABKCO won a Grammy for their DVD release of Sam Cooke – Legend and the following year released on DVD The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus to critical acclaim.

ABKCO Films is a division of ABKCO Music and Records, one of the leading independent record companies in the world. It is home to critical catalogue assets that include recordings by Sam Cooke, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Marianne Faithfull, The Kinks as well as the Cameo Parkway label, which include the master recordings of artists such as Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Orlons, The Dovells, The Tymes, Charlie Grace and Dee Dee Sharp. www.abkcofilms.com / www.abkco.com.

Anchor Bay Entertainment is distributed by Starz Home Entertainment, a division of Starz Media. Starz Media, LLC, is a programming production and distribution company operating worldwide. It includes the Film Roman, Anchor Bay Entertainment, and Manga Entertainment brands. Its units create animated and live-action programming — including theatrical films — and programming created under contract for other media companies. It distributes that programming, and programming acquired from outside producers, through home video retailers, theaters, broadcasters, ad supported and premium television channels, and Internet and wireless video distributors in the US and internationally. Starz Media is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation that is attributed to Liberty Capital Group.

Tonight & Sat. @ Midnight: Creature From the Black Lagoon in 3D at the Egyptian (Seattle)

Sorry for the late notice, but Creature From the Black Lagoon is being shown tonight (Friday 3/16) and Saturday (3/17) at midnight at the Egyptian Theater here in Seattle, on Capital Hill.

According to my phone conversation with the kind folks at the Egyptian, it is an anaglyphic print (red/green), not the original 2-projector polarized deal (which is not generally available, alas), which means the 3D will be not nearly as good (as I can personally attest), but being 35mm it won’t be all bad, either.

Regardless, Creature is rarely shown in 3D so you should guzzle some coffee and make some tracks, because it totally kicks ass. (Anaglyphic prints of It Came From Outer Space have been shown locally a couple-few times now in recent years — but not Creature.)

I find it more than a little amusing that it’s playing on St. Patrick’s Day weekend — drinking like fish and all that, eh wot, glub glub.