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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Scholars Give First-Hand Accounts of Archaeological Looting in Peru

Terraces at Choquequirao, Peru
Photo by Harley Calvert.  CC 
As the January 3 deadline approaches for submitting comments to CPAC (the Cultural Property Advisory Committee) regarding Peru's renewal request for import protections, some scholars have supplied firsthand accounts of the threats to cultural property in that country.

Brian Bauer of the University of Illinois remarks to CPAC:
"I am a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and have conducted archaeological research in Peru for more than 30 years. Looting is a huge problem in Peru and every day the archaeological record of its past civilizations becomes smaller as sites are destroyed. Much of the looting is fueled by the demand for artifacts, in both the art and antiquities market. The current restrictions on the importation of artifacts from Peru into the USA plays an important role in curbing the demand for these artifacts and helps to preserve archaeological sites. I urge you to continue as well as further strengthen these [regulations]." 

Dr. Margaret Jackson of the University of New Mexico writes in her public comments to CPAC:
"This message is in support of the proposed extension of the ban on archaeological and cultural properties from Peru. As a scholar specializing in art and cultural materials from the Andean region, I can personally speak about the kinds of damage caused by the illegal traffic in antiquities. I've witnessed it firsthand. When people think of ancient Peruvian culture, they often think of the pristine mountain fastness of sites like Machu Picchu, but unfortunately, the actuality is rather different. To supply a voracious art market, site after site will be chewed up by looters, bones and burials desecrated, architecture obliterated, fragile murals and other remains turned to rubble and cast aside. This happens at sites large and small all over Peru. Placing legal restrictions is the only way to curtail the destruction. I strongly support any measures toward this end."

And Maya Stanfield-Mazzi of the University of Florida describes:
"As a professor of art history at the University of Florida, I request that you renew the MoU with Peru to protect that country's cultural heritage. I have conducted research in Peru for several years and have seen the damaging effects of the theft and destruction of that country's heritage, both Pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial. These losses are damaging to the Peruvian people as a nation and to the Peruvian economy. It is important to the standing of the United States that it not be seen as complicit in the trade of illicit art and artifacts. Please continue to support Peru's efforts to conserve its heritage."

Comments regarding the Peruvian request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United States that would renew import protections pursuant to the Cultural Property Implemantaion Act (CPIA) may be submitted by clicking here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Kids Are All Right (2010) directed by Lisa Cholodenko



Astrid:
I really enjoyed and appreciated The Kids Are All Right when I first saw it about a year ago. I liked it for portraying a family with two moms, making lesbian parenting appear normal and lesbian love pretty usual too with the common long-term relationship hick-ups. I especially loved the film for Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore – in that order. I embraced the politics of it all: finally Hollywood makes the lesbian film, after gay men had been starring in mainstream pictures for almost a decade.

On second viewing I dared to be a harsher critic of the movie. I still had fun watching it though. I liked the imperfection of the perfectionist Nic (Bening) – I saw that she was playing a specific written character, not a stereotype of the butch-partner. I still empathized with the womanizing Paul (Ruffalo), who found himself suddenly in the middle of a family drama in which he played dad. Nick felt the film did not portray him kindly, but I continued to like Paul – I guess it helped that it was Mark Ruffalo all along. What seemed to be a let-down this time was the written structure of the film: it floated from the funny relationship stuff and the in-search-for-a-father-figure stuff to being unnecessarily sentimental in the end. The boring guitar soundtrack music mixed with the storyline about the elder sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska) going off to college was an unnecessary way of saying 'look how normal a lesbian parent family really is'.

Despite there being a sense of the education program and appropriation project, The Kids Are All Right is a funny witty film, most of the time. The relationship between Nic and Jules (Moore) made me laugh aloud many times and at times it reminded me of myself in a relationship. I would file the film next to Sideways and Little Miss Sunshine – harmless California sun, light entertainment and real emotions all in good proportion for no one to feel overwhelmed.

Nick:
I just started reading Simon Reynolds' book Retromania about our obsession with the past and its impact on popular culture (specifically music). I think Reynolds is arguing that our unhealthy obsession with a time when everything seemed better than now (take your pick from the 1960's onwards) leaves less space for new ideas in our culture. I think this is a truism to an extent. I hate the way how old celebrated movies/records take away the space from new releases. Yet, re-evaluation also brings new perspectives on old works which can give new currency to the old classics. We begin to look at things in a new way. This blog mostly covers old movies, making me think are we just adding to the general air of 'things used to be so much better?' The Kids Are All Right names itself after a classic Who rockumentary (and soundtrack album), so its title certainly fits into what Reynolds is talking about.

The Kids Are All Right gives us what it would like to think is a radical examination of the modern American family. In fact, the selling point, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore playing lesbian parents Jules and Nic just confirms the conservative attitudes that pervades most straight society. Once you get over this condescension, The Kids Are All Right opens up into a well performed comedy. At times the patronizing tone of the script comes over as being a little bit too pleased with itself. Can we also have no more scenes in films where middle-aged former hippie chicks turned capitalist bastards rhapsodize on why Joni Mitchell's Blue was so special back in the day. You're killing it for us.

Quietly, the consistent Mark Ruffalo steals the acting honors (though his character is poorly treated by the script) as the sperm donor father Paul, who Jules' and Nic's children decide to contact. Bening and Moore (especially) overact as the picture moves on, making us feel less for their characters. By the end, long passages of bland music and aimless images reveal that The Kids Are All Right was really about the daughter coming of age all along. So The Kids Are All Right feels like a missed opportunity to go deep into the workings of the middle class American family.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Doctor Zhivago (1965) Directed by David Lean



Nick:
It's often the case that through the critical community, too much emphasis is placed on the script when discussing cinema. It's an odd thing to say, but cinema is a visual medium first of all (and its origins certainly attain to this with the silent era). It could be argued that in its purest form, that after the visuals, music even trumps the words in the emotive power of cinema. This may explain to us why the action blockbuster picture actually remains closer to the origins of the form than say a wordy art house drama. The introduction here is as a warning to tell you that if you enter into Doctor Zhivago for an intellectual/intelligent explanation  of what happened in The Russian Revolution, you may be disappointed. 

Doctor Zhivago in many ways finds a film which offers its political attitude through the voices of a bunch of English luvvie actors. Pretending to be Russian, spouting in the best Queen's English, many a British thespian can be viewed espousing the most basic clichés about Russia and its bleeding Revolution. Yes, hard facts or even any correct information on the events at hand is not why I would recommend Doctor Zhivago. Julie Christie, captured by Lean in her prime is one reason to watch – she looks amazing here, Omar Sharif, doing so much for the cause of the mustache is another. Instantly, Lean, by giving us such a gorgeous looking pair, takes us into the world of idealized fantasy. One can just marvel at shot after shot of beauty on screen, littered with little details that keep the continuity of the story going. The lost, gained and lost romance of the banned poet Yuri Zhivago and his muse Lara engages us, even if one does not actually care that much for what comes out of their mouths.

So Lean, almost more than any other director, and certainly in the second half of his career, understood the visual power of the medium better than most. He had been a great director of actors but seemed to have loosened his grip somewhat for Doctor Zhivago. The only American on view – Rod Steiger, as the surviving scoundrel Komarovsky delivers any sense of reality amongst the decadent camera work. But more importantly, Lean makes his romance credible, or our wanting for it to succeed, by keeping the central lovers apart for most of what is a lengthy picture. Doctor Zhivago has no real sense of sentimentality, which serves it well, especially with its cruel ending. So as cinema nowadays becomes more based on trying to convey real emotions (why?) or using CGI to recreate the ultimate unimagined world, I'll always fall back on the artistry and genius of David Lean. Lean knew how to tell a "jolly good" yarn in the most eye catching way. Some of the primal essence of cinema throbs here.

Astrid:
I'm not a lover of David Lean epics as such. Too many men, too many wars. Doctor Zhivago is an important exception though, because I do love it. I feel as if admitting this love requires proper explaining. There is a guilty pleasure feeling that creeps in with this film – the lightness of the political content, the general fluffiness, the romance of a lifetime – nothing really stands the inspection of a critical mind. Yet, the story of Zhivago and Lara appeals to me time and time again.

A big reason for why Doctor Zhivago works is the look of the film from the way it has been filmed to the way it has been designed to look using sets, props and clothing. The movie makes everything from poverty to abundance and from torture to sexual desire look romantic in the early 20th century Russia. Also, the fact that the film was made in 1965 influences the look positively, especially in the case of Julie Christie.

It baffles me how I can find it romantic that Zhivago is married to a nice beautiful poetry-loving lady, but still yearns after and has an affair with Lara. He wants to keep both women obviously and manages to juggle between them until he is highjacked by the red army. Then he returns a half-dead man into the arms of Lara to find out that he has been left by his wife. In the end he loses both brunette and blondie – I guess that's the romance: love is romantic if it's lost and unromantic and mundane when it becomes a lasting thing with routines. What I really cannot grasp is why and when did Zhivago become such a patriot that he chose Russia over any ladies at all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sex and the City TV Series (2006) & George Harrison: Living In the Material World (2011)



Astrid:
The third trimester of pregnancy in my case should be called the-sex-and-the-city trimester rather than the tired or huge trimester. The box was a gift from Nick. At first he meant to say that I can watch it when ever I want and just relax, but when we actually started going through the first season (out of 6), it became clear that he was equally into the whole series and did not want to miss episodes. The first and second seasons showed how this series really is not just about women, but it's just as much about men. Those two seasons remain the best. Carrie has not yet taken over half the series and it deals much more with thematic questions about sex and sexualities. As Carrie takes over, so do many other less favorable qualities. For example the focus on product placement isn't outrageously obvious in the beginning, but becomes a distracting feature by the third season.

I have watched Sex and the City on TV when it first aired in Finland. I have watched the reruns several times, and I even went to the cinema to sit through the two horrible movies. I have been the twenty-something woman who constructs her ideas about shoes, bags and relationships with a little help from Sex and the City. Now I wonder if it really was a worthy influence. I'm still hanging onto the 20-something-tag for at least one more month – nowhere near the ages of Charlotte, Carrie, Miranda or Samantha. I've not been single for a decade, I don't own any Manolo Blahniks and I don't really care for them, I'm about to be a mom  and no, my boyfriend is not filthy rich nor does he own a bar. But maybe it was this realization of how I do not relate that allowed me to enjoy the series in a light-hearted way. I'm glad I own the box.

Nick:
This last few weeks have been spent in the company of the girls from Sex & The City (Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte). It's almost been a prescient time to watch the whole of Sex & the City. The euro struggles to survive as the whole capitalist/consumer society comes under attack from market forces and the dignified and needed Occupy movement. Candid sex scenarios from a women's perspective are  most welcome when we live in a society where so much sexuality seems to be discussed from a male perspective. This is where it can be said the early seasons of Sex & The City really work, these shows have edge and a great sense of humor.

As the series wares on, it becomes apparent that Sex & The City becomes aware of it's on success and the whole affair turns very self conscious. It's also the time I begin to wonder what kind of message is being sent out here. Sex & The City's ladies become impossibly decadent. A fantasy world where expense and emotion try to mingle in a game of spot the product placement. So, from my own perspective of not having (and actually rarely wanting), I found Sex & The City and the kind of life aspired to in the series (some kind of Manhattan neo-conservative fascist) remarkably offensive. These are tough times, so come the revolution I hope Carrie and her ilk are the first up against the wall!




Astrid:
I was keen to see Scorsese's documentary on George. Usually, Scorsese makes great docs on rock stars and generally, The Beatles is a fruitful topic with plenty of angles and a lot to admire. Four hours of George and the three other guys and lots of famous talking heads and good music – sounds like a good idea. But I was a little disappointed. It felt like the doc never really began. There was never a strong narrative thread that took hold and delivered an insight. George remained a distant figure throughout. I felt that a lot of talking heads idealized him leaving out the criticism they most likely would have been able to deliver in another circumstance.

So George was a bit of a loner, a ladie's man in a stern quiet manner, a joker, a volatile angry guy and of course, a spiritual seeker. The emphasis here was on admiring George's involvement in meditation, sitar playing and all things Eastern and incense-smelling. What remained in the sidelines was the fact that he obviously battled with all kinds of substance abuse and with his own bursts of negative energy, bad temper, or what ever you want to call it. He was one of the Beatles and therefore the documentary was made with kid gloves on. Or maybe, George was a bit boring and Scorsese struggled to find interesting material on him...give me Bob and No Direction Home any time. A put-down with a frown is still more interesting than a mantra as a chorus.

Nick:
We go from the abundant materialism of Sex & the City to the anti-materialistic sentiments of George Harrison. Of course it should be mentioned here that being a millionaire Beatle and being able to have whatever and whoever you want at any given time from a very early age (in George's case an incredible early 20's), it's maybe easier to take a stance of anti-materialism when you are as rich as George was. Let's remember this was the George that wrote Taxman moaning about how much he was paying  to the British Government, so although having money was seemingly not important to George, giving it away obviously rankled too. Yet, this sense of contradiction in Harrison is something we take away with us whilst watching Martin Scorsese's patchy documentary.

The problem with George Harrison: Living In the Material World is it tries to take too much on board. Unlike Scorsese's excellent Dylan documentary No Direction Home, where Scorsese takes a certain part of Dylan's life and focuses on that, here he tries to fit too much in. So, this never goes deep enough into Harrison's life. It's a shame as some anecdotes are funny and there is some great unseen footage. Even more surprising about Scorsese's film was the small amount of focus on Harrison's guitar playing. Yes, we get a sense of Harrison's quick disillusionment with being a Beatle, but not enough about how great an innovator Harrison was with the six stringed beast. I expect more from Scorsese, so this was quite a big disappointment to me.

Alltop Lists Cultural Heritage Lawyer As Best of the Best - Thank You

Alltop, all the top stories

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  Courtesy of your interest in and subscriptions to this blog, an early gift arrived today.  Alltop placed Cultural Heritage Lawyer on its Top Archaeology News site.  This blog is honored to join the ranks of such prestigious publications as Archaeology magazine, ScienceDaily, and Looting Matters on Alltop's list.  Thank you to all my readers.

John Terry, public order offences, sport and the law

For Halsbury's Law Exchange
England football captain John Terry has been charged over alleged racist comments said to have been made during a Premiership football match in October. The details of the charge, set out in a CPS press release, are:


“On 23 October 2011 at Loftus Road Stadium, London W12, you used threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress which was racially aggravated in accordance with section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Contrary to section 31 (1) (c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998”

As the case has not been heard I will say nothing more about its facts. Instead I will offer some observations on two related general issues prompted by the incident. The first concerns another aspect of s 28 of the 1998 Act, not raised in Terry’s case. The second concerns the general interplay between sport and the law, and the substitution of self-regulation for the criminal law.

Section 28 provides:

An offence is racially or religiously aggravated for the purposes of sections 29 to 32 below if—

(a) at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial or religious group; or

(5) In this section “religious group” means a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.

It might be suggested that abuse is abuse; and made none the better if it happens not to be directed at someone’s race. But human history is full of examples of the most appalling examples of abuse specifically based around race. There is therefore some justification in the context of the public order offence of harassment for special condemnation of abuse directed at someone’s race.

The more substantive controversy about s 28 concerns the inclusion of religious grounds on an equal basis with race. Certainly human history is at least as riddled with abuse of religions as it is with abuse of racial groups. Also, one of the world’s great religions, Judaism, classifies its adherents on matrilineal grounds, rendering it akin to a race (a factor which tied the courts in knots in the well-known JFS case), though nothing is offered here on whether Judaism is a race or religion or both.

The usual distinction offered is that religion is a set of ideas, which one may choose, modify or abandon, whereas one has no choice over one’s race. As a result, the right to freedom of speech in the form of the right to discuss, debate and indeed lampoon religion is a fundamental feature of a free society, but the same arguments cannot be applied to discussion of race. (That said, in the United States the right to free speech is valued so strongly that even banning racist hate speech is highly contentious.)

The counter is that for some people their religion is so intimately tied to their personal identity it has an equivalent status to race. This may be true for some, but it is not true for all, and more to the point it also has to be seen in the context of the sort of theocratic oppression found in other countries (and in the history of this country) which is inimical to a free society. Recognising that, and the importance of free speech generally, Parliament came up with the following when introducing the religiously aggravated element of the offence in the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006:

"Protection of freedom of expression


Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.”


(Section 29J in Sch 3 to the 2006 Act)

The problem should be immediately apparent. Very little that might be said to be an offence under the religious aspects of s 28 will not be plausibly argued to constitute protected speech under s 29J of Sch 3 to the 2006 Act. Then one has to factor in the right to free expression under Art 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, though s 28 would likely fall within the state’s margin of appreciation.

Much the better option would have been not to have introduced the offence in the first place, and left any unjustifiable harassment to the general law. This would have meant aggressive harassment of an individual would have remained illegal, but there could be no attempted prosecution of satirical works of art or literature, and no attempt to suppress general public debate about the role of religion in society. Moreover, having fewer laws of this type would in some instances work in favour of religious believers who wished to advance controversial opinions based on their faith, such as the late Harry Hammond.

Turning to the second issue, where the divide falls between the right of a sporting body to self regulation and the application of the general law – including of course criminal law – is another classic grey area. Abusive behaviour on the pitch in the form of harassment of opposition players or the referee is hardly unknown in many sports. Then there are the occasional out-and-out physical assaults: for example, the footballer Roy Keane claimed in his autobiography that he had once deliberately injured the player Alf-Inge Haaland. That sort of conduct would constitute prima facie evidence of assault. Either way, self regulation of sportsmen could hardly be said to encompass a case of a sportsman attacking a spectator, such as Eric Cantona’s infamous kung-fu kick (though I cannot resist adding that it gave rise to one of the tabloids’ greatest headlines: The sh*t hits the fan), given that the spectator never signed up to the jurisdiction of any sporting body simply by attending a match.

Even if Keane’s actions might be appropriately punished by the football authorities themselves, it is hard to argue why an actual brawl such as the Kevin Tamati/Greg Dowling encounter known to all antipodean rugby league followers, which took place off the pitch after both had been sent to the sin bin, should not attract the interest of the CPS if public order offences under the 1998 Act do. Admittedly most rugby league players, especially of that era, would have thought it demeaning to refer their disputes to the police, but as the law student favourite of R v Brown [1993] 2 All ER 75 held, consent is no defence to an assault occasioning actual bodily harm (though it does seem to be in the case of boxing ...).

Next one might consider actions such as blatantly faking a penalty. A player might be disciplined for doing so, but would that be adequate punishment – let alone sufficient redress for the opposition – if it altered the result of the match (say it was an extra time penalty in a knock-out competition) with huge financial consequences?

There is neither space nor time to discuss the issues fully here, and I would stress again that I have offered no opinion on Terry’s case, which has to be conducted according to the law as it stands at present. All that one might conclude is that the dividing line between self regulation by sporting bodies and the general law is somewhat less than logical or principled.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Brogan Museum To Close on January 15

Brogan Museum
Source: Ebaye
Just a little over a month after authorities seized the Cristo Portacroce from the Brogan Museum in Florida (see here), directors announced that they will close the doors to the museum indefinitely on January 15 because of financial problems.  Watch the WCTV report here.  It remains to be seen if the museum will reopen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Aviator (2004) Directed by Martin Scorsese



Nick:
I've had the worst runny nose of my life this week. And it's still runny! Stop! Now! It's been over a week. Is this a permanent state? The amount of toilet roll used to blow, soak and wipe away the slightly green gunk, well, it's a forest or two I'm telling you... I've also found myself in a period of time where I've been extremely busy. So, flu and work = lack of full strength recovery. So, through tissue and sniff we decided to go for The Aviator again. It's always struck me as a very accomplished yet cold piece of film making. After The Gangs Of New York (a bombastic failure for Scorsese), The Aviator sees Scorsese turn his attention to another slice of vérité, his portrait of the early rise to notoriety of American aviator, inventor, film maker, rogue, freak, racist, compulsive disorder victim and crucially, filthy rich Howard Hughes.

Something happened this time however. I finally got what Scorsese was trying to do with The Aviator. Through the early life of Hughes, Scorsese has managed to make his own Citizen Kane and in part even pay homage to Orson Welles' classic. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes even resembles the young Welles. So here we get the flashbacks to the influential youth, the rise and fall of Hughes, before he once again triumphs in designing and flying the era's biggest aircraft ever. I've always found Hughes' life after the time frame of The Aviator more interesting. That Hughes (as written about fictionally in James Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy) is the one whose compulsive disorders ended up taking over his life, as he became a recluse in the Desert Inn Hotel, yet still holding influence over all aspects of American life. That influence includes plotting with and against various US Presidents, owning Las Vegas, the daily blood changing which earned him the name of Dracula amongst the FBI, and his open racism. Hughes had an agenda and the older he got, his money and power still exerted itself. The Aviator steers clear of the darkness in Hughes and is more a celebration of his genius and creativity (although Scorsese does focus acutely on Hughes' phobias).

So Scorsese gives us early Hollywood glamor in a special turquoise tint for the first 50 minutes of the picture. He also uses unsubtle CGI to show us many of Hughes' daring flying exploits. Cate Blanchett impresses as Hughes' early squeeze Katherine Hepburn, but it's DiCaprio who burns up the screen. The Aviator justifies Scorsese's choice to make DiCaprio his acting muse in recent pictures. This film has got better for me, and gives me hope that even some of Scorsese's more recent, so-so fare will improve with age. The Aviator, seven years on is starting to feel like a great Scorsese picture.

Astrid:
I remember thinking after the first viewing of The Aviator that it was a depressing and sad film with too bright colors. I also blamed it for being cold and grand without reason. This time around I thought the whole movie was saying: never underestimate the mentally ill. While the film described Hughes' descent into being overpowered by his illness (which at first only effected some areas of his life) it simultaneously celebrated his amazing creativeness and admired his fight against the even bigger guys.

Nick has been going on about Howard Hughes for years – the blood changing and the Nevada desert, casinos, power and more peculiar power. I have been rather annoyed by his fascination, or maybe by the the tone I detected, making the guy sound like a vampire master planner with evil intent.
Yes, it may be that there was some of that too. But this time The Aviator made a lot more sense to me because actually it humanizes Hughes (the racist vampire legend) and sympathizes with him.
Ironically, this sympathy sounds from the analysis that it was the mother of the child who effed him up (to put it politely). It's always the mother, right...Well anyway, this is a film about obsessive compulsion.

Despite the masterful editing and coloring of the movie and the wonderful set design and costumes, the focus of the movie is DiCaprio as Hughes. The Hughes who is not that ill when flirting and having sex, flying and making movies, but is very very ill all the other times. The Hughes whose list of pattern behavior for safety gets so long it isolates him from other people almost completely. And yet, when people believe they can humiliate him in public and can thus force him out from the aviation power game, he manages to make a public appearance defending himself, winning the case. DiCaprio is very believable in his role, which at times makes the film uncomfortable and very emotional. This time I understand why Scorsese decided to make his film about Hughes describing this rather early period of his life; he wanted to celebrate and appreciate rather than fortify the mythology that surrounds Hughes just like it surrounds mental illness even today.

Landau Files Motion to Suppress in Theft of Major Artwork Prosecution

Baltimore Division courthouse.
Source: US District Court of Maryland
Lawyers for Barry Landau have filed a motion to suppress the evidence the government obtained from a search of Landau’s home.  Landau is charged in Maryland federal district court with conspiracy and theft of major artwork. See here for background.

Landau is scheduled for trial in February and is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  His co-defendant, Jason Savedoff, entered a guilty plea earlier this year.  Find more information at this
 link.

Federal agents executed a search warrant on July 12, 2011, reportedly seizing historical documents from Landau’s New York City apartment.  But Landau claims, through his counsel, that the search warrant lacked sufficient probable cause and, therefore, the evidence seized cannot be admitted by the government at trial.

The motion to suppress contends that police observed Savedoff acting suspiciously at the Maryland Historical Society (MHS), and it was Savedoff who was found with historical documents after being arrested.  Despite the fact that Landau was not seen to have acted suspiciously and that Landau did not have possession of any historical documents, police unlawfully placed Landau under arrest and acquired a search warrant based on specious facts, the motion argues.  The motion to suppress explains:

"The affidavit provided to Judge Katz in support the respective applications for search and seizure warrants failed to establish probable cause to permit the searches authorized.  Because there was no evidence recovered from Mr. Landau, and no one observed him stealing any documents or acting inappropriately while at the MHS and prior to his arrest, there was no probable cause to allow a search of his residence and all evidence seized at this apartment pursuant to the search warrant should be suppressed."

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Lava Treasure" Prompts INTERPOL Alert to Dealers and Collectors


INTERPOL (the International Criminal Police Organization) has issued an alert to specialist dealers and coin collectors.  The agency seeks to recover gold coins and plates discovered off the coast of Corsica more than 25 years ago.  The 1700 year objects are part of the "Lava Treasure."

Authorities have been attempting to reclaim the Roman-era items after identifying divers who made off with the find from French waters and then sold the haul for millions.  France prosecuted eight people implicated in the case, and the nation recovered coins and a plate from the treasure last year worth up to nearly three million dollars.  Many unrecovered items could still be on the market.  Click here for more background on the case.

Anyone with information about gold coins or plates from the Lava Treasure should contact INTERPOL here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Peruvian Archaeology, The Costs of Cultural Property Repatriation, and Satellite Imagery to Combat Looting

While Peru currently pursues its request for an extension of American cultural property import protections under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (see this post for background), PRI’s The World and the BBC reported on yesterday’s repatriation of artifacts to Peru by Yale University.  You can listen or read the news item by clicking on the links.

Naturally, the ongoing problem of archaeological site looting was mentioned in the reports by Mattia Cabitza.  Two observations bear some attention.

First, it is not often that we hear about the specific monetary costs of repatriation.  Blanca Alva of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture is quoted as saying: "The problem is that repatriations are expensive."  "They involve a court case, and you need to pay lawyers, transportation, packing, insurance, laboratory tests, etc.”  Cabitza informs us that “[i]n 2007, the Peruvian government estimated that it spent $625,000 (£400,000) on the repatriation of some 400 antiquities.  Ms Alba believes repatriating antiquities is, in the long term, a price worth paying, but she would prefer it if more was done to fight looting.”

Second, there was a discussion about using satellite imagery to combat clandestine archaeological looting.  The idea has been mentioned many times before and bears repeating.  Indeed, Cabitza writes that “Nicola Masini of Italy's Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage has been using satellite imagery in Peru since 2007. . . . Mr Masini believes satellites could also be used to combat looting, because they reveal the presence of fresh excavations.”

Satellite monitoring should be used as a tool for detecting site looting around the globe and for collecting evidence in order to both deter clandestine digs and to prosecute illegal antiquities trafficking.  Commercial satellite imagery can be expensive, but the technology has shown early results when used to expose war crimes (see the Satellite Sentinel Project).  Satellites may be used in a similar fashion to combat crimes affecting cultural heritage.  Global Heritage Network (GHN) announced that it started using satellites this year to monitor endangered cultural sites, and Google Earth is being utilized in some places as a cheaper alternative.  But there should be more widespread discussion about investing in the higher resolution images that can be provided by a commercial company like DigitalGlobe, which furnishes GHN's images.

Satellite image of the famous site of Macchu Pichu in Peru.
CONTACT: http://www.culturalheritagelawyer.com/.

Cultural Heritage and War: A Video Report on Libya

A recent video produced by NATOchannel.tv reports on cultural heritage in Libya in the context of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.  The short, two part film titled NATO and Libya - Cultural Heritage in Times of Unrest can be viewed below.

One important remark is made by Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman of the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group.  He explains that friendly military forces committed to protecting cultural property can deny enemy forces a potential reservoir of military financing.  The comment is another reminder that meaningful investigation to uncover the connection between illegal antiquities trafficking and weapons purchases is sorely needed.

Part I

Part II

CONTACT: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Way We Were (1973) Directed by Sydney Pollack



Nick:
Over the last few weeks we've had a Sex & The City marathon, re-watching the whole series. We're currently on the 5th season, where quality and meaning have been reduced to product placement. In an earlier season, the girls raptured about Hubbell in The Way We Were, and the episode even riffed on the last scene of the movie. In some ways, The Way We Were has a reputation as the quality romantic weepy, especially with mainstream audiences. I'm sure a lot of women of a certain age regard this film as a classic. The reality after watching The Way We Were again is what a confused mess of a picture this is. The Way We Were tries to mix political incentive (specifically the clumsy portrayal of McCarthyism) with liberal ideas on femininity in stark contrast to Hubbell's stoic (outdated!) machismo, all the while trying to impose a romance where opposites attract. Phew...did I say it was only a weepy?

But lets clear another thing up, the direction here is terrible. Pollack has always been well liked as an all around good guy rather than a great director. Personally, I always liked him more as an actor and have found his direction certainly workman-like. Pollack has also had a thing for Robert Redford (Hubbell), The Way We Were being one of six films Pollack has directed Redford in. And here lies a big problem with The Way We Were.  Pollock indulges Redford here. Redford does nothing but look good and act cool offering nothing of the emotive variety. Opposite Redford is Barbara Streisand as the politically aware Katie, who by being so good here, merely shows Redford's capacity for imitating cardboard. We're with Streisand all the way here, in every cause she stands for, while her dream-man often feels embarrassed for her. This lack of empathy from Redford towards Streisand ruins any will we might have for Barbara getting her man. Oh well, you're better off without him Babs, one might opine. On top of this, Streisand, one of the great voices of cinema trumps Redford again by singing the excellent theme song.

Watching The Way We Were again, it does remind  me of where the appeal lies with Redford. Robert Forster, The Go-Betweens tunesmith once opined that Redford had perfect hair, and it's a view one can't help but agree with. As Redford has spent most of his 1970's cinema trying to be a Fitzgerald character on screen, until he actually got to play Gatsby in the end, his hair in the meantime has been exquisite. The best scene for Redford in The Way We Were? Redford behind the wheel of a vintage Mercedes sports car, blonde locks blowing in the wind. If his hair could act, Redford would be the perfect actor.

Astrid:
We have been working our way through Sex and the City - the boxset with all seasons. At some point the women had a moment where they remembered The Way We Were and even sang Memories all together...it made us eager to watch the film again. I remembered The Way We Were as a really flawed film, which had nevertheless made me cry. On my second viewing I liked the movie less than before. Barbabra Streisand was pretty convincing and passionate in her role, but Robert Redford seemed to be sleepwalking through the role of an idiot hunk. He was so meat-and-potatoes and so full of himself as a movie star, it was impossible for me to believe Streisand's character in love with him.

As the film happened, it unraveled as a cinematic example piece on co-dependency. At first the movie managed to portray a woman's lust and passion for a man in a way that's quite rare – Redford occupied the sex object position usually given to the leading ladies. Quite quickly though, it became clear that Hubbell was not much of a man for the thinking woman Katie. Yet, she kept insisting on needing him and loving him. That's where instead of romantic, the film seems to me sad. Surely there would be someone more stimulating and loving for Katie, if she would let go of the blond pin-up sailor boy.

For once watching the making-of-documentary offered a crucial perspective to the film. In the documentary it came out that the movie was brutally edited after a few test audiences saw it. Barbara Streisand thinks the edits ruined a great movie. Many important scenes were cut out in which the politics of the film and her character Katie were developed. These scenes gave depth to Katie's and Hubbell's separation and difficulty as a couple and they justified the whole political aspect of the film. In the version that came out and became a hit, the politics seems to serve no purpose other than being a futile prop offering something for Katie to feel passionate about. Had the politics stayed in the film, it could have been a much more fulfilling a film á la Reds or Doctor Zhivago. Now it is a rather mixed-up story of a relationship with some great acting and some confused directing.

Monday, December 12, 2011

London, the citadel of the offshore world

Why bother with black lists and immobilization of bearer bonds in BVI and other countries? You can get bearer shares from United Kingdom Limited Liability entities and be welcome by tax authorities and banks in most countries which have black lists copied verbatim from the France-based OECD.

The final irony is that Panama and the United Kingdom will start negotiations for a double-taxation agreement http://www.prensa.com/uhora/economia/panama-negocia-mas-acuerdos-para-dejar-de-ser-considerado-un-paraiso-fiscal/40666




LONDON, THE CITADEL OF THE OFFSHORE WORLD

The modern offshore company, which began its all-conquering journey in the islands which once formed the British Empire in the 1970s and 80s, can justifiably be described as an English invention. At that time, it was also possible to incorporate so-called "non-resident" companies in England, which, if managed from outside of the United Kingdom, were not subject to taxation in England, although even then London could never have been described as a classic offshore zone.

This possibility ended in the early 90s, but, England, and in particular, London remained an extremely popular place for the incorporation of companies, for both English and foreign businesses alike. Numerous businessmen chose to incorporate in London; Companies House now boasts a register with over three million companies, ranging from small business to multinational companies. So what makes people want to incorporate in London?

The tax advantages related to English companies

The above shows quite clearly that English companies cannot be categorized as traditional tax-free companies, and in fact they are quite the opposite. How, therefore, can English companies be used advantageously in international business transactions? The following section shows just two of the possible uses.

Trading company for nominee purposes.


Blacklists have meant problems for a large number of offshore companies, particularly those providing services. One very efficient way of overcoming this problem is by using an English company, which concludes a special contract with the offshore company, which may be incorporated in a traditional offshore zone such as The Bahamas, BVI or Belize. According to the terms of the contract, the English company concludes contracts with foreign partners on behalf of the offshore company, prepares invoices for the total amount of the services provided, and receives full payment into its bank account, although the offshore company actually provides the services. Periodically (as defined in the contract between the English and offshore companies), the English company is entitled to an agency fee of between 5 & 10 % of the value of the contracts concluded. The English company must declare this income and pay tax accordingly, whereas, the remaining 90-95 %, is transferred to the account of the offshore company, as set down in the contract. An offshore company is subject to tax in England on income with an English source. Although the offshore company operates through an English resident company, the actual source of the income is not England, but the foreign partner. At the same time, it is an important condition that the offshore company should be managed from outside England, and that the directors, shareholders and bank account signatories of the offshore and English companies should not be the same people.

Dual resident companies

An English company must be classified as resident in England if it was incorporated in England and/or the majority of the directors are resident in England and manage the company from England. However, according to the agreements made by England for the avoidance of double taxation (DDTs) it is possible for a company to be resident in two or more places, if, for example, it is managed from a different company. Such companies are known as "dual resident companies". As long as the company is managed from a country which is protected by a DDT, then the company can apply to the English tax authorities to be taxed in that country rather than in England. And if that country has more favorable rates of taxation, then it is worth operating the company as a dual resident company. Currently, the most attractive jurisdiction with which England has signed a DDT is Cyprus. According to Cypriot law, if a company, or a branch of that company, operates outside Cyprus, then that branch is subject to the 4.25% profit tax of the worldwide income. The English company becomes resident in Cyprus by establishing an offshore branch there. The majority of the directors of the English company must be Cypriots and all the decisions relating to the running of the company must also be managed from outside England, preferably from Cyprus. Similarly, the company must not receive income from English sources. This is all the more problematic as activities carried out in England are subject to VAT. Dual resident companies must file annual returns in both Cyprus and England, but can also take advantage of the DDTs signed by Cyprus.

This information is not intended and should not be construed as concrete tax advice. Should you wish to make use of one or any of the structures mentioned, we recommend that you consult your personal tax adviser, as well as experts on the legal systems of all the countries involved.

Source: LAVECO brochure. Extract posted with thanks to N. Remé (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, EJP).
Photo: UK Inland Revenue offices

Former strongman returns to Panama "largely irrelevant"

PANAMA CITY, Panama - More than two decades after the U.S. forced him from power, Manuel Noriega returned to Panama on Sunday as a prisoner and, to many of those he once ruled with impunity, an irrelevant man.
Some Panamanians feel hatred for the former strongman and rejected American ally; a few others nostalgia. But as he returned to his native country for the first time since his ouster, it seemed like few people had any strong feelings at all.




Noriega was convicted in absentia in three homicide cases involving 11 murders, including the 1985 beheading of Hugo Spadafora, a physician who threatened to reveal Noriega's drug ties, and the 1989 execution-style slaying of nine officers who staged a failed coup.

Sentenced to 20 years in each case, he will serve the terms concurrently. Official photographs of the facility prepared for him at the El Renacer prison showed a spartan, beige-painted cell with a bathroom, table and small bed.

Noriega will also face charges over the 1970 murder of Heliodoro Portugal, an opponent of Panama's military leaders.





Panamanian media showed images confirming the imprisonment of the former strongman, while pointing out at the cameras.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Uh oh - too many projects

And it's not because The Sewing Lawyer's sewing room has been transformed into Santa's workshop this year.  Oh no.  Last year I was busy as the proverbial bee, secretly refashioning all those bits into fun presents for the entire family.  This year, I've got too many ideas on the go, and sorry, they're all for me.  I'm trying to convince myself that doing a bit at a time on them is an overall advance, but it may be well into 2012 before any of these see the light of day.

Project No. 1 - future leather jacket

You've already seen prototype no. 1 for this - my quilted curling jacket.   They say that a "wearable muslin" should be made up in fabric similar in hand and weight to your intended "good" version.  Well, on that theory, this jacket was a big fail as a muslin.  The knitted version is stretchy and puffy while the intended "fabric" - luscious lamb leather - is sleek and firm.  Apart from the too-low armscyes, I couldn't tell if the pattern would turn out well in leather.  And I wasn't certain if the armscyes would really be too low, if made in a fabric that wasn't prone to stretching in the length.

But the curling jacket did pass the "I think I like the style well enough" test.  So I made a real muslin out of some hideous green woven stuff I found a bolt of at a thrift store.

I'm still liking it.  And it turns out that raising the armscyes by about 2cm was a good call.  But this muslin shows the things that still need adjusting.

I over-adjusted at the hip when I graded out to a size 40.  I'm going to remove the extra width at least at the side seams.

The neck seam is about 1cm too high.  I have a forward neck.  This won't matter a bit when the jacket is open, as I'd probably wear it about 98% of the time.  But I'm going to lower the neck, and lengthen the collar accordingly.

The bust darts are too long.  This could be a marking/sewing error.  I'll sew them shorter in my good version.

The sleeves are a tiny bit too short, though I already took out my customary 2.5cm.

As you can see better in this view of the back, the shoulders are a tiny bit too wide.  I am going to think about whether to adjust the pattern, or (easier) fix this with some shoulder structure in the jacket, with minimal padding.

I really like how the seam on the front of the sleeve lines up with the princess seam.

I'm going to plan the zipper placement properly and put a seam in the right side facing and the left jacket front, rather than apply the zipper on top of these pieces.  I have deluxe Riri zippers for this jacket, and even though the front one will be partly hidden, the shorter ones in the front sleeve seams will be on full display.

I am going to retrace this with my adjustments, and 1cm seam allowances.  I will make a pattern piece for every single piece, i.e. one for each of the left and right sides, as taught by Kathryn Brenne.

Project No. 2 - Leather mittens

I've made leather mittens before.  But the ones I've got planned will up the ante, in terms of the complexity of the pattern.  

I recommend Make your own gloves by Gwen Emlyn-Jones. I've had a copy for years but confess to not really having examined it before being challenged to replicate these worn-out mittens.   There are patterns in the back, in several sizes.

I mocked up a pattern, which I enlarged since my material is a little thick.  I then made a muslin out of fleece scraps.  Frankly I had my doubts about the thumb, which looked so much bigger than the hole it was to go into.  But it was absolutely the perfect size, and the muslin turned out pretty well, as you can see here.  

These are sewn together by hand - a simple running stitch - but they go together surprisingly quickly.  I have some quality time with a glover's needle ahead of me.



Project No. 3 - Knitting

I'm well into my version of this great sweater/jacket.  The pattern is available free here (in English) and here (in original Finnish).

I'm making it in a gorgeous teal colour.

Pictures to come.  Or check out my progress on Ravelry.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Las Uvas: The town that only exists in paper










WHO LIVES IN THE 54 HECTARES TITLED BY ANATI?


The desolate lands in coveted Juan Hombrón
R. M. KOSTER
periodistas @laestrella.com.pa


Before the coastal peninsula became a public issue, 'La Estrella' visited it twice in three years and found no traces of human life in the place

12.07.2011 Title resolutions issued by the Ministry of Finance for the twelve corporations listed 45 people. The vast majority alleged land holders, the others, witnesses, 'who have declared under oath that they are residents and residents of the community in Juan Hombrón Las Uvas, district of the chiru, a district of Antón, Cocle province '.

In almost all cases the residence period exceeds 20 years. In no case is less than five.

I tried to visit the community of Las Uvas three years ago, on November 13, 2008 to be exact. A few miles west of Rio Hato is a stone path that runs from the Panamerican highway to the sea, where the five or six houses of Juan Hombrón are.

If the tide is low, the peninsula can be reached on foot or by car.

I drove along its length. A group of investors were attempting to obtain title land which rights of possession they had bought from some fishermen, and I researched for La Estrella.

I found a strip of sand, half covered on the lagoon side of the scattered scrub. Aside from insects, crabs and birds, it was empty of animal life, and the only trace of human life were a couple of decaying ranches, rotting from rust.

I could not visit the community because there was none! although 45 people have said, 'under oath', who resided in it when I visited the peninsula.

In January this year, the 28th, two journalists from La Estrella went there. Cortez Zelideth reporter and photographer Luis Garcia.

They found the same as me, except that now there are three ranches. Apart from the two and their guides, no one was there.

What would have happened to the 45 residents? Could it be that, on both occasions, they were all on vacation.

Residents often have residences. What has happened to them? Neither I nor Luis Zelideth not see nothing worthy of appeal. Perhaps the residents, such as snails, had brought, or penalty of perjury may not weigh much in the Las Uvas, as elsewhere.

Zelideth and Luis spoke with some of the persons mentioned in the land title resolutions.

They live near Anton, several miles from Las Uvas. They said that sometimes, when fishing, they spend the night in Las Uvas.

It may be true, although it would have been necessary to bring drinking water, for on the peninsula there is not a drop. You may tell the truth, but spending a night in a place from time to time is something different from what the alleged inhabitants of Las Uvas declared "under penalty of perjury ', and gives no possessory rights over anything.

Some of the people mentioned in the resolutions have the same names and identification numbers that they sold their alleged possession rights to the group of investors that I researched in 2008. I do not blame them at all. There are wealthy bums who make their land scams, it is fair that poor people take something, and the most they got was a few thousand dollars.

A funny thing happened when the group tried three years ago to obtain title in Las Uvas. A real estate broker named Jimenez sent an e-mail to Mr. Steve Guthrie, Denver, United States, secretary-treasurer of Grand Panama International, offering lots at bargain prices. 'He wanted to sell land that we had bought from Mr. Lucom and for which we had paid half a million dollars!' said Guthrie.

"That lagoon is where we thought of putting the marina, and without those miles Santa Monica beach is unfit for the project."

RANCHES. In Juan Hombrón (Las Uvas), the houses look more like ruins. Photo: Luis Garcia | La Estrella

http://laestrella.com.pa/online/impreso/2011/12/07/las_desoladas_y_codiciadas_tierras_de_juan_hombron.asp


Friday, December 9, 2011

The fugitive: Roman Polanski

I have been published in this week's New Law Journal (Vol 161, 9 December 2011, p1714) on the libel action of Roman Polanski from earlier this century. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CPAC Will Meet to Consider MoU Extensions with Cyprus and Peru - Public Comments Period Open

Extensions of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Cyprus and Peru will be taken up by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at their next meeting in Washington, DC.  A public session will be held on January 18, 2012 to consider extending the bilateral agreements the United States has with these nations, which implement US import protections covering jeopardized cultural property.

An MoU is enacted pursuant to Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).  The treaty is implemented in the US by the federal Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).  Import protections granted under the CPIA last for five years and may be renewed.

To attend the public session, reserve your place by calling  the Cultural Heritage Center of the Department of State at (202) 632–6301 by 5 p.m. EST on January 3.

Byzantine bronze cross from Cyprus
subject to US import protections.
Source: US State Dept.
Public comments may be submitted electronically to CPAC.  Click here to comment on the Cyprus MoU extension, or here to comment on the Peru MoU extension.  Comments are due January 3 by the end of the day.  If you encounter any problems, visit the eRulemaking web site at http://www.regulations.gov/.  Enter docket number DOS-2011-0135 for Cyprus or docket number DOS-2011-0136 for Peru and follow the instructions on the web site.  Be aware that the electronic submissions process sometimes can be cumbersome.  Comments may also be mailed to:

Cultural Heritage Center (ECA/P/C)
SA-5, Fifth Floor
Department of State
Washington, DC 20522-0505

The comments must address one, some, or all of the four determinations outlined by the CPIA.  Quoting 19 USC 2602, the four determinations are:

(A) [whether] the cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party;

(B) [whether] the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;

(C) [whether] --

(i) the application of the import restrictions . . . with respect to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party, if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by those nations (whether or not State Parties [to the 1970 UNESCO Convention]) individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and

(ii) remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in such section are not available; and

(D) [whether] the application of the import restrictions . . . in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.

European Union Seeks Comments Relating to Cultural Property Protection

The European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) says in a November 29, 2011 press release that it is seeking comments on "on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory."  The EC consists of a representative group of Commissioners who serve as the executive body of the EU.

The European Commission's public statement adds that it "launched a public consultation on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory. The consultation will provide an insight into the views of public authorities, citizens and other stakeholders on the most effective way to facilitate such return."

Vice President Antonio Tajani
EC Vice President Antonio Tajani is quoted as saying: "Today, the illicit trafficking of cultural property is a major problem, going beyond a significant economic dimension, to affecting the core of our cultural identity. I share the increased concern of citizens and Member States and I am working to improve the situation. Please be a part of this effort and let us have your comments and ideas".

Contact information regarding where to send comments may be found here [Update 1/24/12: this link apparently has been suspended].  The deadline is March 5, 2012.

The Big Sleep (1946) Directed by Howard Hawks

Astrid:
The Big Sleep has always been present in this blog, because the title banner is a picture from the film. Why is this the visual image we chose out of all possible film visuals? That might be a good question to attempt to answer right now. I think it was important to have an image portraying a couple, because being a couple was the premise for our blog. Then it was about what energy we wanted to convey and that is where The Big Sleep and Bogie and Bacall became a natural choice. This cinematic couple is nothing if not verbally superior, sexy and edgy. Their looks are also to die for, as is the style of the whole movie. To put Bogie and Bacall in the banner is to direct you to imagine what's to come: the differing opinions of a man and a woman, their difference and their similarities all being equally important ingredients in their romance – and on the blog. To put B & B on the banner is also to engage with the imaginary, which is why we watch films in the first place, I believe.

There is a secret that the world of cinema has largely forgotten since 1946: a put-down can be the sexiest thing one can say to the other. You just have to choose the right time and tone to deliver your line. Howard Hawks knew this, Bob Dylan knew this, Bogie and Bacall certainly acted like they knew – but what's happened to the beauty of a put-down these days?

Another great aspect of the way B & B talk to each other in The Big Sleep is the implicit sexiness of almost everything they utter. In this exchange the subject is supposedly horses and betting on them:

Vivian: Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them workout a little first, see if they're front runners or comefrom behind, find out what their whole card is, what makes them run.
Marlowe: Find out mine?
Vivian: I think so.
Marlowe: Go ahead.
Vivian: I'd say you don't like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a little lead, take a little breather in the backstretch, and then come home free.
Marlowe: You don't like to be rated yourself.
Vivian: I haven't met anyone yet that can do it. Any suggestions?
Marlowe: Well, I can't tell till I've seen you over a distance of ground. You've got a touch of class, but I don't know how, how far you can go.
Vivian: A lot depends on who's in the saddle.

Nick:
So a lazy Independence Day passes by once again. As was pointed out to me earlier in the day by Astrid, Finland seems to be a country that celebrates its independence by watching various celebs and political types visit the Finnish President's palace on TV. No demonstrations in the street this year, this seems to be a time to be home with the family watching the box. It's a strange tradition where even the  most ardent political renegade displays their soft under belly. Why do Finns get so soppy at this event? So, as the hand shaking progressed, we wanted to watch something classic.

The Big Sleep offers more than the pure heated sexual chemistry of the nowadays iconic Bacall/Bogart team-up. Some of the dialogue between the two here is as charged as film dialogue has ever been without expressively shouting "I wanna Fuck!" Yes the photo at the top of this blog is from The Big Sleep. But instead of focusing on Bogart & Bacall or even Hawks (as we have dome in the past), it's time to give the script some credit as to why The Big Sleep still retains the edge and sexual prowess that is pretty much unrivaled in mainstream cinema. The Big Sleep was mainly written by William Faulkner from the Raymond Chandler novel. Like Chandler, Faulkner was a serious writer who turned to Hollywood to make some money and ended up writing some (often uncredited) scripts. He already scripted the Hawks/Bogart/Bacall team up To Have And Have Not. For me, The Big Sleep surpasses even that milestone with clever plotting, great characterization, and the screen Philip Marlowe. So much is down to Faulkner's energetic script.

If for some reason this film has passed you by, stop what you're doing and track it down and watch it (shouldn't be too hard). One of my all time faves, The Big Sleep reminds me of a time when the Studio System really did have the best talent available. That combination of artistic ideals combined with entertainment values have rarely created anything as stylish and sexy as The Big Sleep.